There are many wonderful gluten free food and recipe blogs that you can take a look at for ideas, and I’m going to list a few for you at the end of this post. But barring a specific recipe-what if you just want to cook, not follow a recipe per se? Here are 6 tips (I wanted to do a top 5 list-but ended up with 6) to help make your meals flavorful, healthful, and keep them gluten free.
6 tips for flavorful, healthful, gluten free meals
1. Get the best ingredients possible.
If you have the ability to obtain locally grown food in season-use it! It will be fresher and hold more natural flavor than a food that has had to travel, or is being produced out of season. Generally it will be less expensive as well. If that’s not an option, frozen veggies are generally more flavorful than canned.
Keep an eye out for ingredients-believe it or not. I almost fell over the other day when “sugar” was the third ingredient on a box of frozen snap peas. Exceptions to the frozen general rule would be canned beans-which are way more convienent than dried beans, and personally I like canned artichokes.
2. Don’t be afraid to use spices.
How many of the spices in your rack have you actually used? Give them a shot! Take a look in the spice aisle at the grocery store-there are so many options out there. If you choose a spice blend, make sure to check the label for hidden gluten. I tend to use these quite a bit:
- Lemon Pepper
- Garlic powder
- Grill Seasining
- Lime Pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Herbs de Provence
- Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt
- Sea Salt
- Creole Seasoning
3. Citrus is your friend.
Lime and lemon juices and zests can add a ton of flavor with little to no caloric impact. You can use them in a marinade, a rub, a garnish, in a sauce-however you’d like.
My favorite marinade for flank steak is fresh squeezed lime juice, grill seasoning, chopped garlic, and a bit of olive oil. Easy and very good.
I made chicken breasts the other night-the go to food in my house.
- Some fresh lemon zest, some chopped garlic, sea salt, and some fresh rosemary went into the Magic Bullet.
- Process until reasonably chopped up.
- Press mixture into chicken breasts, add to preheated skillet or grill pan, and cook.
- Add in the juice from the lemons you zested.
- Viola. Very flavorful, lemon herbed chicken.
Easy. (This is why I don’t post a lot of specific recipes-I cook fairly simply like this all the time.)
4. Mustards are fabulous!
There are so many different varieties of mustard out there, and mustards are naturally very low in calories and sugar, and fat free. Some of the fancy mustards may have added ingredients, so always check labels for hidden gluten or sugars.
There is a mustard called Vivi’s Carnival Mustard that I love to straight up dip veggies in. It’s a bit spicy, but it’s very good. They also provide a bunch of recipes for the mustard and different uses.
Don’t give up on the grocery though-dijon mustard is great for kicking up flavor in homemade salad dressings without adding a lot of fat, and is great mixed with tuna. (I promise-give it a try!) Straight up yellow can be useful in making a BBQ sauce of sorts, and is really good when mixed with pork rub seasoning and rubbed onto a pork tenderloin. A lot a flavor for the calorie buck.
5. Fresh herbs are always a great bet.
I wish I could grow my own herbs. I have a black thumb. My fiance is a wonderful gardener, and all of our plants owe their lives to him. I couldn’t even grow the Chia Herb Garden. No lie.
I am fortunate though, that the food market I frequent has a fairly large selection of reasonably proced fresh herbs. I get cilantro for fresh salsa, rosemary and thyme for chicken and pork, basil for tomato, and mint for mojitos.
Make sure to add your fresh herbs toward the end of cooking, or use a quicker cooking method with them. In other words-they don’t hold up too well in a crockpot, and their great fresh flavor is lost.
6. Explore the world of vinegars.
There are way more varieties of vinegar than I was aware of a few years ago. Now, I always have on hand a balsamic vinegar (I use the most), a red wine vinegar, an apple cider vinegar, and a white wine vinegar. Usually rice vinegar.
You can make an awesome salad dressing very easily with dijon mustard, balsamic or red wine vinegar, a little EVOO/Enova oil and spice you like. Shake and serve. If you have fresh herbs, add in some basil and you can’t get any fresher, you know?
Apple cider vinegar mixed with Dijonnaise, nonfat greek yogurt and celery salt makes a great lower fat coleslaw.
Heidi over at Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom is going to do a balsamic reduction (which gets very sweet and awesome) over her brussel sprouts. They also make great marinades, and great sauces.
Experiment-I find that no sugar added preserves with a vinegar and some Dijon mustard make a lovely sauce, especially if you have a pan that needs deglazing.
For example-I sear a pork tenderloin in a cast iron skillet, which then goes into the oven to finish cooking. When it’s done, I remove the pork and let it rest, then add the no sugar added preserves (my favorites are cherry and apricot), deglaze the pan with vinegar (balsamic+cherry, apple cider+apricot), add dijon, let come to a bubble and keep stirring. A flavorful easy sauce.
Let me know how it goes!
I hope this helps! It’s my belief that is you have a few go-to techniques, you don’t always have to follow a recipe. But when you do want to follow a recipe, you can check out these lovely folks for ideas. These are only a few of the great gluten free food blogs that are out there.
- Gluten Free is Life (My buddy Kim)
- Karina’s Kitchen
- Simply Sugar and Gluten Free
- Gluten Free Easily
- Elena’s Pantry
- No Gluten, No Problem