Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Best Gluten Free Chips, Pretzels and Crackers

This post was originally published April 9, 2015 and is regularly updated as I discover new snacks which displace others on the list.

Without further adieu, here are the best gluten free chips, pretzels and crackers I've found so far:

#1 - Luke's MultiGrain & Seed Crackers - Chia Seed


Recent find at our local Costco

The hubby spotted these at CostCo last weekend. Billed as Organic & Gluten Free, these chips taste like a whole grain corn chip. They are lightly salted and crispy and could easily hold a dip  like hummus or peanut butter and stand nicely on their own.


These will be a regular purchase from now on - I hope Costco continues to carry them. The flour mix consists of brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth and potato and are dusted with chia and quinoa seeds. According to Luke's web site they also come in multi-seed, sea salt, bean & seed, black pepper and garden vegetable. Garden Vegetable sounds tasty - I hope I can find them somewhere. Other than Costco it doesn't look like they are available at any of my local grocers yet. I can't provide you a direct link but if you go to their main site by clicking here, then scroll down and click "Crackers" below that you will see a link "Where can I buy some".

#2 Snyder's Gluten Free Pretzels

When I first went gluten free in 2007, I figured I'd be done with pretzels but within that first year my local Whole Foods started carrying the Glutino Pretzels, which had a nice crunch but a slightly weird aftertaste. (Although I still adore their yogurt covered pretzels!). When Snyder's came out with their own gluten free pretzels a few years ago I was hooked. They taste exactly like the gluten variety. Light, crispy and highly salted. You can find them in twists as well as sticks and according to their web site there is also a mustard flavor. I've recently been able to find these at some Safeway stores although Whole Foods is still my go-to location as they seem to always have them in stock. These are perfect for road trips and school snacks.

#3 Milton's Gluten Free Crackers




Milton's makes their crackers in several flavors: multi-grain, "everything", sea salt and cheddar. My favorite is sea salt. These crackers have a great light crunch and almost seem like they have air pockets inside. They also taste a bit buttery and are great with dips or on their own. The only reason I don't have them rated #1 or #2 is that they are a bit delicate and tend to break into powder pretty easily so I recommend them for home consumption versus travel. I can find Milton's at both Sprouts and Safeway.

#4 Crunchmaster Crackers
Crunchmster makes a variety of gluten free crackers. My favorite flavor is Sea Salt.

These are a bit thicker than Luke's and Milton's and have many different flavors.  You can find Crunchmaster multigrain crackers in the gluten free GoPicnic meals.  Crunch master also makes small kid-size crackers in Cinnamon and Cheese flavors although when I buy them they tend to sit in the pantry for awhile - the flavors are not nearly as addicting as the Van's crackers.I'm assuming Crunchmaster probably has less sodium than Van's although I don't have a box handy to compare. Salt, sugar and fat are the keys to making a food addictive (interpret that as you wish).

#5 Way Better Snacks - Tortilla Chips only

We first discovered Way Better Snacks at the 2013 Gluten Free & Allergen Free Expo in San Francisco. The hubby's favorite flavor by far is the Sweet Chili Corn Tortilla Chips which really pack a lot of heat. He can down a bag in a single sitting so be sure to portion out the chips before it's too late! Note - I saw Way Better Snacks now offers crackers but READ THE LABEL- they have sprouted barley which is not gluten free.

#6 Food Should Taste Good - Multigrain Crackers
These are my favorites for the standard party chip and also does great with Nachos. I can buy them at most grocery stores as well as Costco.

#7 Van's Gluten Free Crackers
I first happened upon Van's at my local Safeway who had them on sale. These suckers are addicting so watch your portions. Tiny little crispy salty chips of goodness. My favorite flavor is the "Say Cheese".

#8 Frito's Corn Chips
These were my favorite chips growing up - and that was decades before I realized gluten was harming me. Be sure check the ingredients labels as some of the flavored versions do have gluten ingredients.

#9 Real McCoy's Rice Chips
I first tasted these at the 2014 Gluten Free & Allergen Free Expo up in San Mateo. They are packed with flavor. The only reason I don't buy these more is because (1) they are addicting, and (2) they are a bit pricier than some of the other options out there. My favorite flavor is Sweet & Spicy.

#10 Blue Diamond Nut Thins
Other than Frito's, the only crackers on this list which existed that were decent were these Blue Diamond Nut thins. They are very thin and crispy but pretty hard. They have a lot of different flavors like Cheddar Cheese and Smokehouse. The only reason I stopped buying them was when the Giggler started preschool and I had to find crackers which were also nut free in order to include them in school snacks. That's just about when Crunchmaster came out and over time the others in this list were launched.




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The perfect make-at-home gluten free pizza


Our family LOVES pizza. No - I really mean it. I grew up in Upstate New York amongst many great mom and pop pizzeria's while my husband feasted on Chicago stuffed and deep dish growing up in Chicagoland. Needless to say, we each have our own opinions on Chicago vs NY pizza but we both agree that both are just about the perfect food.

If you've read any of my prior posts, you'll find many mentions of trying gluten free pizza offerings nationwide, as well as my attempts and eventual success at making a gluten free stuffed pizza. Well, it's taken over 7 years but I can finally say I've perfected a make-at-home thin crust pizza!

I've made close to a dozen from-scratch recipes, tried pretty much every baking mix and prepared crust. I've also made many different sauces as well as tried a ton of pre-made sauces. Surprisingly, I ended up with all pre-made ingredients - the from-scatch sauces and crusts didn't beat the final winners. Here they are:

Crust
Venice Baking Company continues to produce my favorite pizza crust so I order them in 12 packs from the Venice web site and store them in the freezer. I prefer the 12" seasoned crust. Join their mailing list or like their Facebook page to find out about occasional discounts.


Sauce
Just in the past year or so Classico introduced 2 pizza sauces - traditional and fire roasted tomato. Both are excellent but I prefer traditional.

Cheese
I find the actual brand of cheese hasn't made much of a difference although I did learn that I need to use a lot less of the Whole Foods brand organic cheeses than Kraft. Also, I tried fresh grating solid blocks as well as grated and really couldn't tell the difference so I tend to stick to Kraft or Sargento shredded cheese (whichever is on sale). I typically look for 3 different varieties:

  • "Pizza" cheese which is typically mozzarella and cheddar. I will also just use shredded cheddar.
  • Mozzarella
  • Italian mix
Toppings
We tend to make 2 pizzas - one Cheese and one with Pepperoni, sun-dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers. Our favorite Pepperoni which is plenty tasty but not too greasy is the Hormel Turkey Pepperoni.


Tip: pre-cook the pepperoni.
Pre-cooking the pepperoni will take some of the grease out and leave in the flavor. Heat a pan on medium heat and add your pepperoni. I typically use between 14-25 slices per 12" crust, depending on much pepperoni I want.
Heat for 5-10 minutes until the pepperoni starts to glisten. Turn off the heat.
Tools of the Trade
Perfect pizza requires having a great tool set. I highly recommend a good quality pizza/baking stone and pizza peel. I've been through a couple of low quality cheap-os which were disappointing. I now have a Williams Sonoma pizza stone and 16" Pizza Peel have been very happy with it. When using a pizza stone, put it in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, bake cycle. Broil or preheat will heat the stone to quickly and will result in a strange uneven result. My oven takes a good 30+ minutes to come to full temperature so when I know I want to make pizza I always work out exactly when I have to turn on the oven.

Pre-Cooking the crust
Gluten free crusts tend to be dense and absorb a lot of liquid so  you will first want to pre-cook the crust to crisp up the edges, making the resulting pizza crispier on the outside and less soggy on the inside. I pre-cook a crust for 3 minutes.
Assembling the Pizza
Each jar of Classico makes 2 12" pizzas. Gluten free pizzas need a little more sauce than their gluten counterparts. If you have tasted most of the frozen gluten free pizza out there you will know what I'm talking about.
Sprinkle on some Pizza cheese. If using straight cheddar, use about 1/2 of what you see here:
Sprinkle on a layer of Mozzarella
and then a light layer of Italian mix
If you are adding toppings do it now
Cooking the Pizza
In my 450 degrees Fahrenheit oven, on a baking stone, my perfect pizza cooks in 8 minutes. You will need trial and error to determine your baking time. I know it's done when the edges of the crust have browned and the cheese is bubbling.

Recipe Summary
  1. Place baking stone in the oven.
  2. Turn oven on to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, bake cycle (not Broil or Preheat).
  3. If your crust is frozen, take it out to thaw while you wait for the oven to heat.
  4. Pre-bake crust for 3 minutes
  5. Spread 1/2 jar Classico Pizza sauce on crust, covering all except the very edge
  6. Sprinkle Pizza Cheese or Cheddar cheese as a light layer
  7. Sprinkle a layer of Mozzarella Cheese
  8. Sprinkle a dusting of Italian cheese mix
  9. If using toppings, add toppings.
  10. Bake 8 minutes until crust is lightly browned and bubbly.
  11. Cool on cutting board for 5 minutes, cut pizza with pizza cutter or large Chef knife, cool another 5 minutes and serve.
  12. If making 2 pizzas, pre-heat 2nd crust while assembling first pizza. Then assemble 2nd pizza while first pizza cooks. I usually make the Giggler's cheese pizza first so it's cooler when we sit down for dinner.
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