Looks Can Be Deceiving in the Gluten-Free World!

gf mixesIf you’re like me, you probably heard it a million times growing up, “Looks can be deceiving.” This idiom was most often used to quell any expression of jealousy we kids might posit in the presence of my grandmother. We heard it often enough that it became ingrained in our thought process. Even now I’m rarely tempted to accept how things appear on the surface. This particular brand of skepticism has served me well in the gluten-free world because when it comes to gluten-free food nothing could be more true – looks can be REALLY deceiving.

Is there anything more disappointing than popping open that pristine package with beautiful graphics and gluten-free labeling that called out to you in the store only to find a cinnamon roll that’s so dry you can’t swallow it, or a donut that’s only good when eaten frozen, or a breakfast bar with perfect texture that tastes…well, BAD? Okay, admittedly when you remember you paid 50% more for that product you may be even more disappointed, but when your eyes tell your salivary glands to expect something delicious and your taste buds return the message, “yuck”, there’s an immediate sensory letdown. That’s the feeling I’m talking about. I hate that feeling. I want gluten-free food that makes me smile! I have to think that’s what all of us want.
I’m thinking about this because I’ve been on the road this week where my experience with gluten-free baked goods has run the gamut! This beautifully decorated cupcake looks like it will taste amazing, but you couldn’t pay me to eat more than the one bite that I tasted. Prepared from a prepackaged mix according to the package directions, it was AWFUL. The texture was dry and chewy, the smell unpleasantly chemical, and the taste like that of cornstarch plus a touch of baking soda eaten straight off of a spoon.
sticky bun
This sticky bun from a nearby restaurant had a pleasant crunch on the edges and came covered in a cinnamon sugar pecan glaze. The dough smelled and tasted good, but had the sponginess that comes with using a significant amount of xanthan gum to hold the flour together.

At this point, I could cavalierly tell you that you can prevent such disappointment by eliminating prepackaged products or packaged mixes from your diet, but that wouldn’t really give you a realistic picture of the full gluten-free experience either. Looks may be deceiving even if you bake something at home.
banana muffin
These homemade banana oat muffins don’t look as picture perfect as the two previous items. The tops are jagged and it appears as if the texture might have that graininess rice flour sometimes delivers. Surprisingly, the muffins do not disappoint in either taste or texture. Made with overripe bananas, maple brown sugar oatmeal, almond flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour and butter, they are moist and full of flavor. The crumb is slightly crumbly with no grainy texture at all.

I know you’re probably thinking, okay you may have illustrated your point, but how does that help me? It doesn’t give me a quick and easy list of products to buy or delectable restaurant items from which to choose. You’re right, it doesn’t. That’s not what this post is about. Instead it’s a reminder to keep an open mind and enjoy the adventure of surprise and discovery on your gluten-free journey. Think of it this way, if looks can be deceiving, you’re free to ignore them and try something anyway!

Love what you love! Enjoy what you enjoy! Clean your plate if it tastes good and only eat two bites if it doesn’t! The pleasure is in embracing the experience and occasionally finding that perfect bite which may or may not be perfectly packaged.

Cheri, Cheri, Quite Contrary

gardenMy dad used to say it as if it were my full name, “Cheri, Cheri, quite contrary.” His version was, of course, a takeoff of the nursery rhyme in which the line that follows reads: “How does your garden grow?” I hear him again in my head each spring when my yard begins to bloom. Was he just being funny, or did my dad have a point? Am I contrary?

I don’t think I’m really contrary, but I’m certainly contrarian. I don’t accept conventional wisdom without careful consideration. I gather loads of information before making a decision. I play devil’s advocate so that I can turn an idea around and see the other side. I’m not afraid to hang a jury. I can remain calm in the midst of a crisis because I focus on the next best step to take rather than on the idea that there’s a crisis.

This mode of operating makes me feel as though I am strong, solid, resilient, and competent. Some people agree with this view. Others see my contrarian nature as a huge pain in the booty. And so it will always go.

And that is why I don’t want to focus on that particular question. Whether or not I’m contrary is not important. In fact, I think we often get sidetracked by asking ourselves and our children the wrong questions.

We ask:
What do you want to be when you grow up – doctor, lawyer, engineer, programmer, professor, fireman, pilot, plumber…
Instead of asking:
How do you want to be when you grow up – kind, courageous, motivated, knowledgeable, innovative, powerful, conscientious, loyal…

We ask:
What do you want to do – drive a truck, find a husband, play pro basketball, buy a big house…
Instead of asking:
What qualities do you want to contribute to the world – compassion, thoughtfulness, peacefulness, gratitude, generosity, honesty…

We ask:
Will your new job pay more?
Instead of asking:
How will your new job feel better to you than your previous job?

We ask:
Is your new job a career advancement?
Instead of asking:
Is there something you want to learn from this new job?

We ask:
Will I start, Coach?
Instead of asking:
How do you think I can help the team, Coach?

We ask:
Why doesn’t my husband do more around the house?
Instead of asking:
Why haven’t I thanked my husband for working so hard?

We ask:
Why doesn’t my wife keep the toys picked up?
Instead of asking:
I wonder if my wife would like some me time while I bathe the kids and pick up the toys?

We ask:
Why do the other salesmen get all the leads?
Instead of asking:
What can I do to make my customer’s day easier?

We ask:
Should I go to the party?
Instead of asking:
What are my intentions in going to this party?

We ask:
Why isn’t this partnership working?
Instead of asking:
If this partnership were to end, what would I want that process to look like?

We ask:
How can I say no?
Instead of asking:
How can I say yes when it feels like I’m betraying myself?

We ask:
How can I find the time to take care of myself?
Instead of asking:
How can I take care of my family if I don’t take care of myself?

Now, I’ll ask:
Are the questions you’re asking helping you show up in the world in the manner you desire?

If not, now’s a great time to change up the questions!

Cheri, Cheri, quite contrary? Depends on why you’re asking!

Go For Full Flavor!

Taco Bowl
Taco Bowl
Crafted, Greensboro
When you’re throwing together a meal or choosing one on location, go for full flavor! Last Christmas I made some Cauliflower Taters to take to my mom’s house. Since Mom is a dialysis patient following a Renal Diet, I wanted to make sure that I avoided real potatoes, too much salt, and too much cheese. This wasn’t a problem. The problem was, I froze.

Instead of keeping the proportions within tolerance and still going for full flavor, I stopped myself when the flavors were balanced…balanced, but bland. I recognized in the moment that I was stopping myself from that one last pinch of salt and spoonful of Parmesan. I convinced myself, against my better judgement, that I should stop at that point.

When we got to the table for the meal and I took a bite, I was very disappointed in my decision. I hate bland. And I wasn’t the only one. My kids and their girlfriends are used to layers of flavor from fresh ingredients. They were highly disappointed too.Case1

I was reminded of those disappointing taters recently when I excitedly chose a quinoa and sweet potato cake, herb roasted chicken, and kale salad from a grocery case. Everything looked tasty and healthy. The combination made for a beautiful plate. I sat out on the balcony looking at the mountains anticipating that first delicious bite.

And then I took the first bite and cringed. With the exception of the salad, the food was simply devoid of flavor. Whether I’m on the balcony, at my mom’s table, or in a restaurant, bland food always leaves me feeling irritated and dissatisfied. Ben’s simple solution to this problem is to reach for the Sriracha. The processed food industry’s solution is to add chemical flavor enhancers. My solution in this case was to remake the leftovers into something else.
balcony meal
My most common solution is to use fresh ingredients, taste early, taste often, and avoid the temptation to back off on the flavor when preparing food for a specialized eating plan.

A meal that is kidney friendly, diabetes friendly, heart healthy, gluten-free, Crohn’s friendly, or colitis friendly can be infused with layers of flavor from onion, celery, carrots, garlic, shallots, scallions, basil, sage, rosemary, parsley, thyme, oregano, dill, cilantro, tarragon, chervil, marjoram, black pepper, red pepper, paprika, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cumin, chili powder, curry, turmeric, fennel, lemon juice & zest, lime juice & zest, orange juice & zest, vinegar, infused olive oils, and a host of other herbs and spices. If you’re not sure which flavors enhance each other, check out a guide like “The Flavor Bible”.

Too often it seems that people associate healthy eating with tasteless food. That is unfortunate because healthy food can be delicious food as long as you go for full flavor!





Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Relax…Gluten-Free is an Option Everywhere in Asheville

Relax…gluten-free is an option everywhere in Asheville! Want an easy-to-be-gluten-free vacation? Asheville, North Carolina is a great choice.
Grove Park
Set in a bowl surrounded by the beauty of the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has a robust farm-to-table culinary culture. There are tailgate markets all over the city and restaurants serve delicious combinations of fresh ingredients. Imagine a salad topped with roasted peaches served over house-pickled beets or lobster nachos in which the rich flavor of the guacamole and slaw rival the lobster on the palate.

If you’re in the habit of ordering a salad without croutons to keep gluten-free ordering simple, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that your waiter will usually offer you a side of bread. Don’t worry. He didn’t misunderstand. Gluten-free is mainstream here. Often from a local bakery, your bread may be slices of toasted loaf bread or it could be focaccia-style rosemary slices.

Rosemary Bread
Rosemary Bread
The Corner Kitchen

In the mood for a burger? Of course there’s a gluten-free bun available. Want a crepe? Oh look, all the crepes are gluten-free even if you’re not!
Jerk Chicken Crepes
Creperie & Cafe, Weaverville

The gluten-free options don’t end with the city limits. In nearby Weaverville, you can feast on appetizers like fried pickles, chicken nuggets, bagel chips, and sausage balls. There are other great offerings in Arden, Fletcher, and Hendersonville.
There’s no question you will eat well and can choose to eat healthy with no particular effort when in Asheville. That means lots more time to relax, and energy to enjoy the beauty, while you experience an abundance of recreational options. From outdoor choices that include hiking, biking, fishing, and rafting to indoor choices that encompass art or craft galleries, spa treatments, winery tours, outlet mall shopping, and touring the Biltmore Estate, there is ample opportunity for fun.

Have a place you find easy-to-be-gluten-free? Let us know below so we can enjoy it too!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”