Gluten-free, Wheat-free living
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Gluten-free, Wheat-free living

Spice Up Your Gluten-Free Life

We’ve got a yen for unusual flavors: Spanish smoked paprika, subtle and sweet agave nectar, nutty quinoa, fragrant sorghum, full-bodied ground chiles from Chimayo, New Mexico. What makes our gluten-free/wheat-free (GF/WF) A Fork in the Road recipes uncommon is our knowledge of tried-and-true ways to make superb GF/WF food and our taste for the unexpected.

Peruse Our Pantry For:

· Cooking tips and techniques
· Our favorite ingredients and where you can purchase them
· Info about our favorite GF/WF chefs and cookbooks
· Culinary definitions and explanations

We’re always adding and refining our Pantry entries, so check back often for new information. For information on finding gluten-free food in your local store, check out the The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide by Triumph Dining.

It’s all here, from A to Z:

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


agave nectar (aka syrup) –

Rating a mere 27, agave nectar is the lowest-ranking sweetener on the Glycemic Index. (High fructose corn syrup is a whopping 89.) Derived from the agave plant (tequila is made from the same plant family), agave nectar is one of our favorite sweeteners. Lighter, thinner, and milder than honey, agave nectar is superb in teas, wonderful in lieu of maple syrup, and perfect for baking. To substitute agave nectar for sugar (in baking), use 3/4 cup agave nectar to 1 cup of white table sugar, and reduce the liquid in the recipe up to 1/3 and reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees. We buy the Madhava brand,, distributed locally in Lyons, CO. Look for it in your health-food market. We buy ours at Sunflower.

almond meal/flour –

A meal of finely ground almonds makes a superb flour that’s high in protein and yields a surprisingly light baked product without grit. Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry, in Boulder – one of our favorite gluten-free websites – uses almond meal in many of her baked recipes.



chiles –

Sounds like CHEE-lays (not chilies, Hormel makes those) – are among the earliest plants to be cultivated in the New World. Chile varieties are thought to have been derived from Latin America and were transported worldwide by Spanish and Chinese explorers.

These plants are believed to be at least 10,000 years old. There are about 200 formally identified varieties, but chile heads suspect there are thousands of varieties. Christopher Columbus mistakenly labeled chile plants “peppers.” He thought the chile plants were the pepper plants he was desperately seeking, and unfortunately the misnomer stuck. Calling chiles “peppers” is technically incorrect. And, bell peppers are not chiles. Some consider bell peppers fruits, and they contain no capsaicin, the spicy inflammation-fighting chemical that chiles store in their ribs and seeds.

When we lived in San Diego, we became enamored of chiles. Their flavors vary from profoundly sweet and fruity and rich and smoky to sticker-in-the-tongue hot. Our favorites include: Jalapeños and their smoked and dried alter-egos chipotles, Poblanos and their wizened doppelgangers anchos, and several other varieties, fresh (fresco) and dried (seco).

Since we have family living in New Mexico, we stock up when we travel south, but you can buy many chile varieties in your neighborhood market. Check out the Mexican-food section, or mail-order incomparable dried chiles from Chimayo.

Chimayo chiles –

Chimayo is a tiny town in northern New Mexico, about 60 miles north of Albuquerque. Known for it’s holy Santuario, Chimayo’s ancient church has seen many miracles. Pilgrims travel here from all over the world – to sample the holy dirt beneath the Santuario’s floor. Perhaps it’s the sanctified earth or the spirits of the Penitentes who’ve walked this ground for centuries, but the chiles grown in Chimayo are different than any we’ve tasted (and we’ve tasted a bunch). Once they’re dried (seco) and ground, these chiles are richer, nuttier, and sweeter, and their heat is dusky and smooth.

We use these ground chiles in many of our recipes. If you can’t find these chiles, substitute with the alternatives we suggest in our recipes. We order our chiles directly from El Potrero (trading post) in Chimayo. At last checking, they still had no website, so you’ll have to reach them the old-fashioned way, by phone/U.S. Mail: El Potrero, 17 Santuario Dr., Chimayo, NM 87522, 505 351-1411.

chipotles –

These mahogany chiles are dried and smoked Jalapenos. They're among our favorite chiles. The flavor is smoky and piquant, adding subtle flavor to many dishes, including yams, shrimp, stews, even mayonnaise. You can buy chipotles loose, but the most common way to find them is canned in an adobo sauce, a tomato sauce. Check the Mexican food section of your market. BE careful! Some brands have wheat flour in them. The San Marcos brand is gluten-free.

coconut flour –

Simply finely pulverized coconut adds lovely flavor, texture, and a bit of moisture to recipes. Add it to your flour blend, but use coconut flour for no more than 1/4 of the flour called for in your recipe.

cornstarch –

Most of grew up with this stuff thickening our jams and dusting our bums. It’s a great GF/WF substitute for traditional cake flour (you’ll still need to add xanthan gum or guar gum), and it’s frequently part of a gluten-free/wheat-free flour-blend equation, because it adds great texture and loft.






fava bean flour –

Like garbanzo bean flour, fava bean flour is GF/WF and has a strangely “green,” fresh-straw taste (I’m channeling Seabiscuit here) and has the benefit of being high in protein. Because its flavor is unique, it’s best used as a minor player in a blend and often is blended with garbanzo beans to become garfava flour.

favorite superfine brown rice flour blend –

GF chef Annalise Roberts introduced us to this amazing blend via her cookbook, Gluten-Free Baking Classics.

superfine brown rice flour (Authentic Foods brand)

2 cups

6 cups

potato starch (NOT potato flour)   

2/3 cups

2 cups

tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour)

1/3 cup

1 cup




3 cups

9 cups

fish sauce –

This is a very strongly scented sauce made primarily from anchovies and water. Fish sauce adds distinctive flavor to Thai dishes. Don't be tempted to leave it out; your dish will not be the same without it. Several companies make a GF version, including Tiparos, available at many import markets, and Thai Kitchen, available at nearly every market.

[gluten-free] flour blends –

The best gluten-free/wheat-free baked goods are made with a blend of flours, not one flour milled from a single grain (as with wheat flour). Blending gluten-free/wheat-free flours allows you to marry the delicious flavors of your favorite GF/WF grains, and blends yield more delicate baked products with great loft and texture. You can mix your own GF/WF flour blends (the least expensive way and most creative way to go), or, you can buy commercially prepared GF/WF flour blends, such as Bette Hagman’s or Sylvan Border Farm blend at health-food stores.

If you mix your own (as we do), choose a mild/neutral grain, such as brown rice, for your “foundation” flour, and add other grains to that, such as: 1/2 brown rice flour, 1/4 potato starch, and 1/4 tapioca starch. There are several delicious GF/WF flours suitable for baking/cooking. We’ve described each under the grain itself.

Our favorite GF/WF flour blend is a superfine brown rice flour blend developed by GF/WF chef Annalise G. Roberts (author of Gluten-Free Baking Classics, also our favorite gluten-free cookbook, hands down). Check out Roberts’ website, It’s a delight.

freshly ground spices –

If you choose one thing to do to improve flavor in your cooking, it should be grinding your own spices. First, it’s incredibly fragrant. There’s nothing like the scent of freshly ground cinnamon wafting through your kitchen. And, it’s much more flavorful! Pre-ground spices are typical ground and warehoused for months – often years – before they reach grocery-store shelves. So if you’re buying already-ground spices, you’re buying old, tired ones. Save yourself some money and buy them in bulk and grind them yourself in a coffee mill (usually about $15) dedicated to spice grinding. Store your spices in glass jars, away from light.


galangal root –

Galangal root in the "Kah" in Tom Kah Gai soup, that fragrant melange of coconut milk, spices, and vegetables. Galangal root is a ginger-like root that is a little sweeter than ginger. It's sometimes available at Whole Foods and import stores. If you can find it, buy it and freeze it for later use. To use it, peel with a vegetable peeler (as you would ginger root) and slice into thin "coins." If you can't find fresh galangal, substitute fresh ginger root.

garbanzo bean flour –

A substantial and distinctively strong-flavored flour frequently used in Indian cooking and GF/WF baking. Because it’s high in protein, garbanzo bean flour is a good option for folks living the GF/WF life. The flour makes a surprisingly light baked product and works best as a minor ingredient in a GF/WF flour blend. We make garbanzo-bean waffles that Gerry’s brother Michael calls “Gonzo Waffles.” They really stick to your ribs. A word of caution: Garbanzo bean flour has a bit of a bean aftertaste that some people dislike, and, because some garbanzo beans milled into flour are milled raw, they can cause gas. If you’re not used to eating this flour, introduce it slowly.

garfava flour –

A combination of fava bean flour and garbanzo bean flour. It’s GF/WF.

garlic –

A member of the lily family (allium) (along with onions and leeks), garlic is my favorite way to flavor food. Garlic has amazing properties: It’s a natural antibiotic and antiviral, it tastes wonderful, and when it’s roasted, it takes on a sweet, nutty flavor that is otherworldly. Master herbalist Susan Mead says if she had to choose one item to have on a desert island, it would be garlic.

guar gum –

This is the ground endosperm of guar beans. Like xanthan gum, it’s a thickener and stabilizer in gluten-free baked goods. It’s often the “gum” of choice for people with corn sensitivity, since guar gum is not fermented with corn, and xanthan gum can be. However, guar gum, in larger quantities, can be a laxative. So use caution.





Kaffir lime leaves –

These bright green/waxy leaves are from Kaffir lime trees. These trees produce large, wrinkled limes and incredibly fragrant and flavorful leaves that are often used in Thai cooking. Whole Foods sometimes has these leaves in the fresh spice section. When they're available, I buy a couple packages and freeze them. If you're lucky enough to make trips to Boulder, CO, the Savory Spice Shop on Broadway has dried Kaffir lime leaves. And, if you often visit Denver, the Viet Hoa Market on Alameda carries fresh Kaffir lime leaves. Be still my beathing heart!



Madras curry powder

Named for a city in southern India, this slightly hotter-than-ordinary curry powder is a blend of several spices (like all curry powders), including turmeric, cumin, and curry leaves. It’s sweet and fragrant, and leaves a yellow-orange stain reminiscent of saris on your fingers. You can find it large markets and specialty cook stores. We buy ours at The Cupboard cookstore in downtown Fort Collins.

measuring GF/WF flours –

Many GF/WF are exceedingly fine, almost like dust. Because of this, they tend to easily clump. To accurately measure these flours:

  1. Step outside and shake your GF/WF flour-storage bin well to
    aerate flour.
  2. Use a tablespoon to slowly scoop GF/WF flour from the container
    to the measuring cup and level with a knife.
  3. Do NOT use a measuring cup to scoop GF/WF flours directly out
    of the flour-storage bin.

millet –

With more protein than rice and a nutty taste and wheat-like texture, this is easily one of our favorite cereal grains. This cornstalk lookalike produces a lovely cattail-like spear jeweled with tiny seeds. No wonder the birds in our yard love it! Millet is one of our favorite grains for GF bread.




oats –

Mares may eat them (does, too), but whether people with celiac should eat them has been a topic of debate. For years, it was nearly impossible to find a clean source of oats, since most oats (at least in the United States) were processed on the same equipment as wheat, and there was a strong possibility of cross-contamination with wheat. Now, however, there are true, gluten-free sources of oats (Bob’s Red Mill sells gluten-free oats, and a nearby ranch in Wyoming also sells only gluten-free oats, With new options came new thinking about the safety of oats for people with celiac disease. There is a little catch, though. Gastroenterologists usually recommend that newly diagnosed people (with celiac disease) avoid oats for about a year. Oats can affect the GI tract the same way wheat does, so it’s best to wait until your gut has thoroughly healed before attempting to eat oats. When introducing them to your diet, go slowly; it can take awhile for your GI tract to adjust. I eat them regularly without problem.


paprika, smoked sweet (pimenton de la vera dulce) –

Oh my. Spanish smoked sweet paprika is one of those ingredients that will take your dishes – everything from eggs and fish to sauces – to new heights. It’s rich and sultry with little heat. The paprika chiles get their smoky flavor from being dried slowly over a long-burning oak fire. There’s also smoked hot paprika (pimenton de la vera picante) if you prefer a hotter, smoldering flavor. We buy these at our local cook shop as well as at Whole Foods.

potato starch –

Not the same as potato flour, potato starch is a common ingredient in gluten-free flour blends and GF/WF baked goods. The flavor is mild/neutral, and this light ingredient adds loft and texture to GF/WF products.


quinoa –

Cultivated in South America for thousands of years, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) was considered the “mother grain” by the Incas. This wonderful gluten-free grain is cultivated in Bolivia, Peru, and Chile today and in some places in the United States (in the Rocky Mountains). The plant is related to beets and spinach. Quinoa is high in protein, calcium, and iron and provides the perfect balance of all eight amino acids. If you’re looking for a great, nutritious grain, this is it! The quinoa seeds vary in color – tan, red, even black, and their flavors are mild, delicate, and nutty. Before cooking the grain whole, rinse it well to remove the bitter “resin” on the seeds. (Most quinoa is already rinsed before it’s packaged, but it’s a good idea to rinse it again.)




sorghum –

This important cereal crop also has more protein than rice (like millet), and sorghum comes in several varieties, including cane sorghum and sweet sorghum. June Perry Callahan, the soft-eyed Kansas girl who married Gerry’s father, grew up loving biscuits with sorghum syrup. I never eat a biscuit or drink a sorghum beer (most GF/WF beers are made with sorghum) without thinking of sweet June.

Because sorghum has a sweet taste and texture that mimics wheat, it’s an excellent candidate for GF/WF bread-flour blends. And, you can dazzle your friends with this little nugget: Most brooms are made from sorghum crops known as “broom corn.”

storing gluten-free flours –

You’ll see different opinions on this topic, but we’ve found GF/WF flours stay fresher longer if you refrigerate them in airtight containers. Many GF/WF flours have strong flavors (especially soy flour and amaranth flour), and these flours become rancid quickly. If you bake infrequently, we suggest freezing GF/WF flours (then thawing them at room temp before using).

superfine brown rice flour –

In the gluten-free world, rice is king and most frequently substituted (in blend form) for wheat. This is our favorite gluten-free “foundation” flour. We prefer it over white rice flour, because brown rice has more fiber than white rice (it includes the rice bran when it’s milled), and GF foods typically lack fiber. In our opinion, superfine brown rice flour is best for blends. The superfine milling eliminates the “grit” common to gluten-free baked goods. We buy our superfine brown rice flour from Authentic Foods,


tapioca starch (aka tapioca flour) –

Derived from the manioc plant, we all grew up loving tapioca, little pearls of pure delight. Tapioca has a natural chewiness, mild flavor, and lofty quality that makes it ideal for GF/WF baking. Tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the same thing.

toasting nuts or seeds –

Toasting intensifies the flavor of nuts and yields exceptional texture to all your dishes. You can toast most nuts in a dry skillet or in the oven. In our opinion, smaller nuts and seeds are better suited for the skillet method, such as pine nuts, slivered almonds, hazelnuts, or sesame seeds. Larger nuts and seeds, such as pecans, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds are better toasted in the oven.

skillet method:

To a large, dry skillet, add nuts or seeds (only enough to cover skillet bottom in a single layer) and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until nuts or seeds begin to brown and become fragrant, about 6 minutes. Be careful! Seeds tend to pop and spit when they’re heated. Turn nuts or seeds out on a piece of foil to cool.

oven method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large cookie sheet with foil and spread nuts or large seeds in a single layer on foil. Toast nuts or seeds in oven about 5 minutes, stir, and continue toasting about 3 to 5 more minutes, until nuts/seeds brown and become fragrant. NOTE: Nuts burn easily! Watch these carefully! Turn nuts or seeds out on a piece of foil to cool.





xanthan gum –

A natural gum polysaccharide produced by bacterial fermentation of corn, soy, or other plant products, xanthan gum is a thickener and stabilizer that replaces the elasticity that gluten gives to baked goods. It also improves a product’s shelf life. GF/WF cooks often add some sort of gum – guar or xanthan – to GF baked goods to improve texture. A good rule of thumb is 1/2 teaspoon per 1 cup of GF flour blend, but this isn’t always the case; follow your recipe closely. A little too much (or too little) xanthan gum can ruin a recipe! If you’re sensitive to corn, check your xanthan gum source, since xanthan gum sometimes is fermented with corn.



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