This is the phone conversation I had with my husband, Thomas, on Thursday evening.
Thomas: I just bought you so many gluten-free treats that you might go into a diabetic coma!
Me: Are you serious!? What did you find?
Thomas: I bought cookies and cakes, and jelly rolls and cakes, and brownies and cakes...
Me: Did you take a picture of the display for my blog?
Thomas: No, I bought everything. You can take your own picture. They were on the "seasonal table" so I just bought one of everything.
Now THAT is true love! I am so blessed to have a supportive husband who "gets it". Even though he isn't gluten free, he understands that I have to be, so when he learns of a new product that he thinks I might like, he goes above and beyond to make sure I have it! I am blessed.
Last week, I got a private message on Facebook from a friend that I met last year in the gluten-free section of a grocery store, and she was telling me that she found fresh, gluten-free treats in the bakery section of her local Kroger on Poplar Avenue in Memphis, TN. I live in a neighboring state, so it wasn't convenient for me to go that day. I looked in every Kroger within a 25-mile radius and none of the bakery employees had seen or heard of these gluten-free treats. They just kept pointing me to the freezer case. My dear husband happened to be working in the area of that Kroger on Thursday and stopped on his way home. He hit the motherload! Every gluten-free product made by Lilly's Bake Shoppe in New York was available at this particular Kroger and he bought it all: Rainbow Bars, Raspberry Roll, Apricot Roll, Chocolate Seven Layer Cake, Brownies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Assorted Cookies...it was all mine (and Nathan's because he can't eat gluten either)!!
We didn't understand why the other local Kroger stores didn't stock this product, but after examining the labels I knew why these "seasonal" items were there. The Kroger on Poplar is located near the Jewish Community Center and these products are labeled kosher for Passover. Out of curiosity, I visited the Lilly's Bake Shoppe website, to see what other products may be available. This Kroger had it all! But since Lilly's is closed until May 8th in observance of Passover, I guess there's no way to get more anytime soon. I'm so thankful that we're all stocked up! I'm happy to know that if Kroger doesn't get another shipment of these sweet treats this year, I have something to look forward to for next year. In the meantime, I can order online from Lilly's Bake Shoppe! Happy Passover!
Please share your gluten-free shopping finds by commenting below! It gets lonely here without comments!
All grocery stores are not created equal; therefore, I have a not-so-secret obsession with them all-even Walmart. Wow, I can't believe I typed that. In case you didn't know, gluten free shopping in a small southern town is a challenge. It wasn't until the past year that local stores started carrying a decent selection of gf products. During a typical week I buy groceries at three stores because each one stocks something different and has what I need...I mean what I want. Thomas and I have started calling our weekly shopping excursion "Friday Night Date Night." I do get a little excited about what I might find during my weekly quest! The kids hate it. Fortunately for them (and me), both sets of grandparents live nearby and are always happy to visit with the kiddos while we get the grocery shopping done. That also helps save money because I don't have extra people putting extra items into my shopping cart. I also love to make new friends in the gluten free aisles! I learn a lot from other customers and enjoy sharing product suggestions while I shop! I have found that the gf community is very friendly! We have to stick together!
Our Friday Night Date Night typically starts at Aldi. Prices are lower and they offer a good variety of gluten free products in their Live GFree line. They change up their product offerings regularly, so it is hard to set a menu and plan what to buy at Aldi, but we always buy milk, eggs, produce and grass-fed beef there. The Live GFree products that are always on the list include the brownie mix, pretzels and blueberry pancakes.
There are a few things you need to know if you have never shopped at Aldi but want to give it a try:
1. Take a quarter to get a shopping cart. No, they don't charge to use the carts--they simply request that you insert a quarter to unlock cart. Your quarter is returned when you return the cart. That keeps carts from being all over the parking lot and also prevents damage to your car.
2. Bring your own shopping bags. This helps the environment, but can also save you money. Bags are available for purchase, but I find it easy to bring my own.
3. Don't be scared to try a private-label product. Most of these products are excellent and Aldi offers a double satisfaction guarantee if you don't love it. They will refund your money AND replace the product.
4. You will save money. I have been buying milk at my local Aldi for $1.49/gallon. Yes, that said gallon! Eggs and produce are priced significantly lower than competitors as well. Almost everything sold in Aldi is priced lower than competitors.
Our next stop on Friday Night Date Night is Kroger. Just as all grocery stores are not created equal, not all Krogers are created equal. I sometimes hit more than one Kroger to knock out the majority of my shopping list. A friend I met in a grocery store aisle recently informed me that she spotted gluten free items in the bakery section of her Kroger. I haven't seen them in my store, but we will make a special trip to her Kroger this weekend! Kroger has a growing selection of gluten free items including bread, hamburger buns, pizza, corn dogs and other quick-serve meals for the kids and items for school parties. I also like the fact that Kroger awards points for each dollar spent in their store that can be redeemed for saving at the gas pump. Using the Kroger card also tracks what I buy so they can send coupons for items I purchase--even hard-to-find gluten free product coupons. I always download coupons from the Kroger.com website, including the Free Friday download coupon, before I shop! If it is free it is for me!
Our final Friday night stop is at my local Walmart. While it is not our favorite store, I will admit that some things are cheaper and our small-town store has dramatically improved it's gluten free section over the past few months. They now stock Schar Artisan Multigrain Bread, which Nathan says makes a good pb&j. I also have been purchasing Glutino Chocolate Chip Cookies, Glutino Strawberry Toaster Pastries (like a Pop Tart), and McCormick's Gluten Free Taco Seasoning.
On special occasions, like Saturdays (just kidding, we don't go every Saturday), we will drive 40 miles into a neighboring state to Whole Foods or Sprouts Farmers Market. I love Feel Good Foods chicken and vegetable egg rolls at Whole Foods and I buy all they have in stock every time I go. They are fabulous! I have recently discovered Sprouts and I am really impressed with their selection! Almost everything we tried at the GFAF Expo a few weeks ago was available in Sprouts. I was also able to use a lot of the coveted coupons that I received at the expo. I love to save money!! Another thing I love about Sprouts, is the yellow price sticker on the shelves that signifies that the product is gluten free. It makes shopping a little easier, especially with kids. I spoke with the grocery manager who offered to special order items since I drive so far. I was really impressed with their friendly employees and excellent customer service. I just wished there was a Sprouts a little closer to home.
While most couples would think grocery shopping for a date night is stupid, we disagree. Thomas and I love good food. We love spending time together and we have fun picking out new foods to cook at home. We have turned grocery shopping into an adventure that we look forward to every week!
When I first started preparing gluten free meals for my gluten-loving family, I wasn't quite sure how the recipes would be received. I had raised my children, and my husband of nearly 18 years, on Southern comfort food recipes, all from a hand-written cookbook given to me as a wedding gift from my mama.
The gf recipes I was finding to try to replace family's favorites would definitely not be crowd pleasers in the Eldred home--and if I had served those meals, the family would have revolted. Over the past few years, I have adapted many of my mom's recipes to make them safe and suitable for the gluten intolerant, and now, those recipes are winners with the pickiest of eaters!
But eating the same things week after week gets old! In an effort to spice up the menu and seek new ideas, our family attended the Gluten Free & Allergy Friendly (GFAF) Expo in Atlanta last weekend where I met Tiffany Hinton (aka GF Mom Certified), a gluten free blogger, speaker and author of several best-selling gluten free cookbooks. I decided to try a couple of her recipes to see if they would be accepted by my "tough crowd."
Tiffany sent me her e-cookbook, Mom Certified Celebrates Heritage Gluten Free, ($9.99 available by clicking here). Y'all, this cookbook is way more than a cookbook! Tiffany inspires readers with not only easy-to-follow recipes, but also by the way she poured her heart and soul into this book by sharing her story and the struggles that brought her to where she is today. I was truly inspired and after reading it from cover to cover, I felt like I had known her forever.
In the beginning, I instantly noticed that Tiffany had a soul food section in this cookbook and my first thought as a native Southerner was, "What does this girl from Chicago know about cooking soul food?" It turns out that she actually knows a lot about it!
Tiffany's husband, Will, is from Winston, Miss. Believe me-you can't get much more Southern than that! She shares his family's recipes that feature his Southern heritage. This cookbook celebrates the heritage of her diverse family's history from Will's Southern roots to her childhood in Indiana, rural Illinois, Chicago, and the French heritage of her ancestors. It is a great read, even without the recipes.
I decided to make rump roast and biscuits (one of our favorites that we have been denied for way too long). The rump roast recipe was very easy to follow and within minutes, my beloved slow cooker was filled and dinner was cooking while we went to the soccer fields. Too easy!! I had every ingredient in the kitchen already except for gluten free chicken broth base, which I found in my local grocery store.
The biscuit recipe was a little more involved, and it didn't turn out quite the way I'd hoped, but this Southern girl has extremely high expectations for biscuits. Nobody can make them like my mama can--but hers are not gluten free. This recipe, while delicious, did not produce a moist, fluffy, "Southern" biscuit, but Nathan (aka Genius, Jr.) was quite pleased with them. Since they were thinner than most biscuits, he actually took two biscuits and put jelly in between them to make a jelly biscuit--something he has missed for a couple of years! He said, "I love you, mom. Thank you for baking these," twice while he was eating them. That warmed my heart, so the extra time and effort was worth it! I'll call that a success!
When we returned from soccer way past dinner time, our kitchen smelled divine! We enjoyed a hearty meal of roast with potatoes and carrots served with peas and fresh biscuits. They ate so much, nobody asked for dessert! Thomas and I enjoyed leftover roast for our lunch and I honestly believe it was even better today than it was last night! Delicious!
I can't wait to try GF Mom Certified's recipes for banana pudding, corn bread and ice cream cones very soon! The Mom Celebrates Heritage Gluten Free cookbook is a great addition to any gf family's collection! I can see why it is a best seller! I can't wait to try more recipes from this and other gf cookbooks by Tiffany Hinton, GF Mom Certified.
Nathan (age 10) and I were like kids in a candy store at the Gluten Free & Allergy Friendly Expo-Atlanta this past weekend--except it wasn't just candy! There were cookies, cakes, bread, donuts, pizza, pasta, and even cosmetics--just to name a few! We had a blast sampling new products and we left the expo with both our bellies and our GFAF Expo tote bags full! This was the second year that my family has attended this event and we can't wait to go back next year!
I purchased our tickets online in advance which saved us not only 20 percent off admission, but also saved us time because we didn't have to wait in line. We were handed red tote bags already half full of Milton's Gluten Free products and we started making our way down the first row of vendors. What was so awesome was that Nathan didn't have to ask for my permission before eating the samples. He did ask out of habit at the first dozen or so booths, but after I got on his eye level and explained that he could eat anything in the room because it was all gluten free, his face lit up! The look on his little face was more than worth the price of admission. He started going ahead of me to the next booths since he didn't have to worry about getting glutened. He may or may not have visited a few booths more than once. Any booth that had a spin-to-win wheel was definitely visited at least 10 times. He "won" a lot of rice and magnetic clips.
One of my favorite booths was the Spinato's Pizzeria booth. Spinato's is bringing their Phoenix, AZ restaurant to you via Sprouts Farmers Market within the next couple of weeks. Their Gluten Free Tomato, Basil & Garlic pizza was awesome! The crust was the best gluten free crust I've ever tasted--light, buttery and crispy--yum! I would've never guessed I was eating a frozen pizza. They offered samples of pasta sauce and salad dressing that were also quite tasty. We sampled enough at that booth to call it lunch.
Another favorite was the Cheenie's Cheese Bite Rolls. These golf-ball-sized bread bites were just like the cheese bread served at Brazilian steak houses. They were served fresh out of the oven and tasted great! Their display gave me some great serving ideas that I can't wait to try at home.
Nathan was excited to find bread that wasn't dry or crumbly at the Three Baker's booth and at the Pure Knead booth. He felt pretty special sampling Kinnikinnick's new yeast donut that hasn't been released in stores. He also loved tasty treats from Glutino, Enjoy Life, Smart Flour, Schӓr and Udi's.
There were so many free product sample giveaways, but there were items for purchase, too. I bought Pancake/Waffle Mix from Sugar & Spice Market (product review coming soon) that were a hit with my family yesterday! I also purchased a new lip gloss from Crunchi that was very soft and non-sticky.
The event featured classes which I wasn't able to attend because the kiddos wanted to get to the hotel to go swimming, but I did get to meet Tiffany Hinton (aka GF Mom Certified), one of the featured expo speakers, who was promoting her gluten free cookbook at the authors' table. During our chat, she invited me to review recipes in her e-cookbook which I am excited to do. Stay tuned for my review of her recipes soon!
This well-attended event proved that there is a need and demand for gluten free products and I am thankful for the companies who "get it" and offer products for the GF community. I'm hoping more stores and restaurants will start carrying these products. The GFAF Expo-Atlanta has become a must-do annual event for our family! I vote they should start one in Mississippi! Who's with me?
Nathan's note: They had everything! I can't believe they did not have Nogii bars though. I made a plan to get as many Nogii bars as possible, but I am not going to tell you my plan. There were so many things to try. It was so cool. I have never seen so many GF goodies in my life. I loved the Spin to win places. LLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDD it.