I usually buy Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour. I buy it in two-pound bags. It lasts quite a while on the shelf, although I put extra bags in my freezer to keep it fresh longer. It is rice- and grain-free, and works well as a 1:1 substitute for wheat flour. The company has a dedicated gluten-free production line and guarantees its products are gluten-free. There are several other brands of pre-mixed gluten-free flour available, but most have rice flour in them, which is grainy, and my youngest child can’t eat it. If you can eat rice, then try whatever brand appeals to you. Buy organic if you can and read the labels carefully. Watch out for undesirable ingredients like whey or casein, both milk products.
You can also make your own gluten-free mixes. I used to do that, but it was messy, and I always ended up with partly filled bags of various flour ingredients. If you want to make your own flour mixes, The Gluten-Free Baker has many good recipes. If your family members can tolerate almonds (my child is allergic to almonds), almond flour mixed with tapioca starch or potato starch or another light gluten-free flour is relatively cheap and great in baking, pancakes and breads. Experiment to find a mix that works best for you. Read labels, particularly the fine print at the bottom. If it says the flour is made on shared equipment used to make wheat flour or dairy products, put it back on the shelf.
I add 1/2 teaspoon of Bob’s Red Mill xanthan gum to every cup of gluten-free flour. It replaces the gluten, which is what makes wheat elastic. Otherwise, gluten-free baked goods will be dry and crumbly. There are other brands of xanthan gum available. Look in your local organic market or online. My organic supermarket carries Frontier xanthan gum in bulk.
I use Sweet Leaf stevia in liquid and powder forms mostly, but I also buy Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s brands. I checked with the manufacturer of Sweet Leaf stevia who told me their natural flavors contain no MSG. Their organic stevia is sourced from China, but they claim they test it thoroughly, so I’ll take them at their word, although I do feel uncomfortable with buying food products from China because of well-documented instances of food contamination. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s organic liquid stevia (probably also sourced from China, though I have not checked) don’t contain natural flavor. But ingredients change, so always read labels. Some stevia mixes contain milk and other types of sugar including dextrose.
Erithrytol sugar substitute.
It’s white and granulated and looks like sugar. There are several brands of erithrytol. It can cause gastrointestinal distress if you eat too much of it. I buy whatever’s cheapest and has no other ingredients in it. (Some brands contain natural flavor, which we avoid in our house because it can contain MSG.) I find erithrytol has a slightly bitter aftertaste, so I always mix it with some organic coconut sugar, which is supposed to be a little healthier (lower glycemic index, some nutrients) than regular refined cane sugar. But coconut sugar is sugar, and none of it is good for you.
Xylitol sugar substitute.
It’s white and looks sugarish. It can give you loose stools if you eat too much of it. I use it interchangeably with erithrytol. I don’t love either one, nor do I trust that they are enormously healthy, but they taste sweet, look like sugar and have a low glycemic index, I’m told.
Organic coconut sugar.
It’s brown and looks and tastes a little like brown sugar. I buy organic coconut sugar at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or at my local organic chain or on sale at my local regular supermarket. It should be used in moderation, but if you are going to bake sweet deserts, you need some sugar for flavor and body in baking.
Make sure the brand you buy is food-grade and says USP on the label. I buy Now Foods brand, which the company assured me is food grade. Vegetable glycerin is used as an ingredient in cosmetics and often sold in the cosmetics department. It tastes sweet, but has zero glycemic index. I use it in place of corn syrup and add it to smoothies and use it to replace some sugar in baking and sweet sauces like barbecue sauce.
I use both Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and Rumford Aluminum-Free Baking Powder. Both are gluten-free, non GMO. Neither is organic. Both contain corn starch, so avoid if you can’t tolerate corn.
Bob’s Red Mill is the only brand I use. (No, I do not work for Bob’s Red Mill.) The more common (and cheaper) supermarket brand is made using a chemical process. Bob’s is mined using a non-chemical process so is chemical-residue-free.
I often buy Trader Joe’s house brand, which is inexpensive and has no dairy. It is not made on a dairy-free line, so it could contain trace amounts of dairy, but so far it has not bothered us. But be careful because Trader Joe’s chocolate chunks contain dairy. There are other brands that are entirely dairy free, but read labels, because many brands contain milkfat or butter fat. I try to buy organic, fair-trade chocolate. A few dairy-free brands are Enjoy Life, Sunspire and Equal Exchange. If you can’t find them in a store near you, you can find them online.
I love Valrhona chocolate, but it’s expensive. I also use Baker’s organic or plain Baker’s dark chocolate or other brands like Scharffen Berger. All are unsweetened and dairy free. But check labels because ingredients change.
I usually buy Trader Joe’s organic fair trade cacao powder, if it’s in stock. If not, I buy Equal Exchange Baking Cocoa at my organic supermarket. Or it’s available online.
I buy various brands online. On occasion, I have found it at local stores. I love putting it into hot cocoa, hot carob, which I drink in the winter, and occasionally into coffee. It can also be used to make dairy-free white chocolate, in ice creams and in baking.
I buy red lentil pasta at Trader Joe’s. I sometimes buy corn pasta at the regular supermarket, but corn is a high glycemic vegetable and best avoided as much as possible (except for fresh sweet corn in the summer, which is heaven). There are other rice-free pastas, such as chickpea, black bean and quinoa, which are OK. There are very good rice pastas, particularly Tinkyada, which I find indistinguishable from wheat pasta. We don’t buy rice pasta because my youngest child can’t eat rice, but if you like pasta and can eat rice, the rice pastas are usually very good. Trader Joes sells a good rice/quinoa pasta.
There are many brands, most containing rice, so we don’t buy them as often as we used to before we realized my youngest child couldn’t eat rice. Absolutely Gluten Free is a rice-free brand of cracker. There are also rice-free, gluten-free matzohs available, but they are not parve for Passover.
Organic tortilla chips
My youngest child loves these. I think they are junk food and they are made from corn, so I try to avoid them, but since my child can’t eat gluten, rice or almonds, they are one of the few snack foods my child can eat. They are fried, so are not good for you at all, but it’s one of the crummy food items I allow out of either laziness or necessity. My child eats them with salsa or hummus, so they could be worse.
Organic unrefined coconut oil
I buy this in glass jars at Trader Joe’s and at my local organic chain when it’s on sale. They have huge jars of it at Costco, but it’s packed in plastic, which I try to avoid. I buy the unrefined organic kind that’s solid at room temperature. It lasts for up to three years on the shelf, so you can buy a lot of it when it’s on sale. It can be used in baking and high heat cooking. I use it with olive oil in cooking to raise the smoking temperature. Olive oil masks the coconut flavor of the coconut oil. It sparked controversy in August 2018 when a Harvard professor called coconut oil “pure poison,” but the truth may be more nuanced. My nutritionist says it’s a healthy fat that only a few people (those with homozygous APOA2 genetic mutation) need to avoid. I use it in moderation.
Organic extra virgin olive oil
I always keep several bottles on hand. It does spoil eventually, and has to be stored in a dark cabinet so it doesn’t get rancid. I use it in cooking, even though it has a low smoking point so should not be used in high-heat cooking. It’s best uncooked in salad dressings, because heat makes it oxidize, which is not healthy, but I like its flavor in cooking.
I buy it at Trader Joes and Costco. It need not be organic because avocados are generally not drenched in pesticides, although I try to buy organic everything when I have a choice. Organic is always more expensive, but I want to support and encourage organic farming, so I spend my money on organic when I can. Avocado oil is great for salad dressings, but I use it for general cooking, particularly high heat sautéing.
Organic coconut milk in cans
I try to avoid canned foods, because of the BPA in the linings of most cans, but I do buy organic coconut milk in cans. Food packaging is always a bit problematic because I’m suspicious that all plastics leech into food. Look for cans with BPA-free linings, although recent research says the replacements for BPA may be just as unhealthy. Until I can find coconut milk in glass bottles, I’ll have to settle for buying it in cans. I use it to replace cream in soups, in smoothies, for making whipped coconut cream, in hot chocolate, in curries and in other dishes.