I had my first meltdown after going gluten-free yesterday. It had been an emotional day at work – supporting a client through a very personal and tough day – and when work was done, I was not in the mood for cooking. But for some reason I felt a bit of pressure to cook something at home instead of going out for dinner, as I have a good friend in town who is staying with us; I’m not sure why I put that stress on myself – my friend has no expectations when she is in town, as long as she is surrounded by her friends. So, intent on cooking up some (gluten-free) pasta or risotto for dinner, we headed to the grocery store after our day was done (my friend was in town to work with the same client, so we had actually spent the whole day together – which meant we were equally mentally exhausted). I went up and down the produce aisle about 10 times trying to think of something to make; I think I grabbed nearly every vegetable in the store! When we got to the meat aisle, I was disappointed by the lack of selection, nothing that I had wanted was there. And my head was starting to get foggy due to my lack of food … I was in no mood for being spontaneous in the kitchen. And that’s where I lost it. I realized I couldn’t grab a quick meal because I discovered I can no longer eat “bagged” salads (there is wheat in all the dressings); and I’m not even sure if I can eat a grocery-store roasted chicken. My go-to Quick-Dinner-In-A-Pinch was gone. So I had to hold back tears while I loaded up my veggies onto the check-out belt with zero idea about what we would eat…especially when I was hungry now.
I looked at my friend and asked if she’d be alright with going out to eat, which of course she didn’t mind, but I still felt guilty. Then I got stricken with panic about where to eat, since I was so worried about contaminated food and servers not really understanding the seriousness of “gluten-free” requests. I honestly felt ridiculously hopeless and felt like giving up on the whole gluten-free thing right there. Typically I’m excellent at meal-planning; however yesterday I had expected that we may end up going out for dinner with our client, but after such a long day, he was ready to go home. So I had no plan, yet foolishly felt the need to cook something up. We did end up finding a place to go that served gluten-free pizza; and to my surprise the pizza was really good. Way beyond my expectations. So I learned a few things this week: 1) always have a backup plan; 2) I can find good gluten-free take-out; and 3) make sure I always have some prepared gluten-free food at home.
Luckily I got a head start on preparing breakfast goods this past weekend by whipping up a big batch of gluten-free granola. Through all my research with this gluten-free stuff, I found out that oats themselves are gluten-free. However, they are typically processed in the same plants as wheat products, so they become contaminated with those nasty glutens; therefore I can not simply buy a bag of oats or granola and go to town on them. I have to seek out gluten-free oats and gluten-free granola. The oats weren’t too hard to find. I have 2 giant bags right now; 1 of quick oats and 1 of steel-cut oats. Gluten-free oatmeal is a little harder to find…and when I did unearth a teeny tiny bag of granola, it ended up costing me $15! That’s so insane! I opened it this weekend, really looking forward to the awesomeness that had to be waiting for me inside, what with the price tag and all. But I was seriously disappointed by stale, tasteless chunks of oats, nuts, and fruit. It was disgusting actually, so I threw away the bag..and my money. With that experience I decided to get back on the granola-making horse (I used to make it frequently) and turned out this tasty batch. And I didn’t even have to go to the grocery store because I already had everything on hand – bonus!
Cranberry Coconut Granola
I put ground flax in this granola to add a bit more fiber, seeing as it’s a bit harder these days to get the fiber I used to when I could eat wheat and bran. I grind my own, since it is fresher and the flax seeds start to lose their nutrients quickly upon being ground. Feel free to use pre-ground flax meal if you do not want to grind your own. To grind, I just use by blender and blitz them up a bunch of times – they are not as fine as flax meal itself, which ends up working better for the granola anyways.
2 cups steel-cut oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup sweetened coconut
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup ground flax seeds (see note above)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 325ºF.
Combine oats, almonds, coconut, pumpkin seeds, ground flax, cinnamon and ginger in a large bowl. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together themaple syrup, oil, sugar and vanilla. Pour the maple syrup mixture over the oat mixture; mix until everything is evenly combined.
Pour out the oat mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet and smooth into a single layer. Place in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven when the oats and nuts are browned evenly (I unfortunately stepped away from mine for 5 minutes longer than I should have – so it’s a bit darker in the pictures than you’ll want it.). Let cool then transfer to a large bowl and stir in the dried cranberries. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 5-6 cups of granola.