That's a good question -- I'd have to say no in general, but maybe in some cases.
I use a couple different mixes, depending on what I'm cooking. I have one mix I like for breads, another for "generic baking", and I follow the recipe I linked to for biscuits. The quality of what you make does depend on the mix of flours.
To do gluten free baking properly (meaning developing your own recipes, making your own mixes, etc), you have to know a bit of the chemistry involved in baking. Wheat flour is extremely versatile, which is why it's used in almost every baked good. It can be incredibly elastic in one setting, but light and flaky in another. There's no single gluten free flour that can fill in for wheat flour in all its roles. That's why we mix different flours together. When making a mix, different flours are chosen for different characteristics. A blend of flours is typically good in some roles, but less good in others. No mix is perfect.
A blend of flours that is good for making bread may be too heavy for cookies. A blend that's good for cookies may be too crumbly for bread or biscuits.
With all that in mind, the only honest quick answer I can give is "I don't know". It depends on what the general blend is, and what it was designed to do.
However, let me also add this: "Try it anyway". If you need to eat without gluten, you're going to spend a lot of time cooking your own food. My personal viewpoint is that the only way to learn something new is by making mistakes. If you do it right the first time, you learn nothing new, but by making mistakes, you at least learn what _not_ to do, and those are the lessons that you remember.
The recipe I posted is "good enough" for me. It's not perfect, but a couple weeks ago my wife (who is not on a gluten-free diet) bought a cannister of pre-prepared wheat flour biscuits. I know she misses the ones I used to make, but I'll only make gluten-free foods now.
We cooked both, and our kids preferred the homemade gluten-free biscuits to the store-bought, cannister biscuits.
I have made biscuits with other flour mixes that turned out like rocks. These don't. Is it related to the flour mix? Probably. Is the one I posted the only mix that can make good biscuits? Absolutely not.
Try your flour mix and see what happens. At best, you get good biscuits. At worst, you learn something that doesn't work.
These http://glutenfreegirl.com/buttermilk-biscuits-gluten-free/ are my favorite so far, but they're still not as good as wheat flour biscuits.
Of course, it probably doesn't help that I can't do dairy either.
I know you stated no recipes, but I think you're going to have to start doing more cooking for yourself.
Since my diagnosis, I eat almost nothing that I haven't made myself -- as consequences of illnesses go, it's really not that bad. It just takes more planning.
tarnalberry mentioned lentils & rice. This is a good standby at our house as we always have ingredients on hand, so it's what I make when I don't feel like cooking.
½ cup Olive Oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced.
1 cup dry lentils
3 ½ cups cold water
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 tsp kosher salt
Check lentils for small stones & discard. Rinse in a colander.
Boil the water in a wide, heavy pot, add the lentils & cover. Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately
10 minutes. Add the rice and salt. Mix, recover and cook for until the lentils and rice are tender (usually about 15 minutes for me).
While lentils and rice are cooking, heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion & saute for 10-15 minutes or until nicely browned. Stir occasionally.
When lentils & rice are done, pour the oil and onion over them. Mix & serve.
I also second the choice of fried rice, which is great with no meat. Gluten Free soy sauce is pretty easy to find now (it's often called Tamari, but check the ingredients, as Tamari can have wheat).
I will also make a stir fry of vegetables with rice noodles, with a bit of broth to bring it all together (similar to the Phillipino dish Pancit Bihon)
Another family favorite is cassoulet -- it's a French stew of italian sausage and beans. It does take more time to prepare, but a lot of that time is just cooking time, and it's a departure from corn & rice. Use turkey sausage if pork is too fatty.
Our favorite version is http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/winter-cassoulet-10000000608424/index.html
Fish tacos are good and easy to make. Cook your favorite fish in your favorite fashion (even boiling is OK for this dish), flake it up and serve between corn tortillas with some coleslaw.
I never tried making waffles out of them, but I have a great recipe for buckwheat pancakes that's got no rice, corn or almond.
Be aware that baking powder generally contains corn. If you can't find corn-free baking powder, you can get the same result by adding cream of tartar to the baking soda (2 parts cream of tartar to 1 part baking soda).
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon clove
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.
Whisk remaining ingredients together; stir into dry mixture just until moistened.
Pour batter by ¼ cupfuls onto a hot nonstick griddle coated with nonstick cooking spray.
Turn when bubbles form on top of pancakes; cook until second side is golden brown.
I use almond or rice milk since I can't do dairy, but you didn't mention dairy, so you should be OK.
If you're not using buttermilk, add a little bit of lemon juice or orange juice for acid to help them rise better.
OK - here are some of my simplest, super-cheap recipes.
Prepared, they typically cost about $1 (or less) per serving.
They're not emergency recipes though, since they take some planning (soaking beans) or preparation (typically about an hour to cook each).
They're also family favorites, so even though they're simple, they still taste good.
Mjadara is a Middle Eastern dish that's basically lentils and onions. It's kind of like meatloaf in the U.S. - everyone eats it, everyone makes it, and everyone has a slightly different recipe for it. It's often made with bulghur wheat, so be careful if you try to order it at a restaurant, but a common option is to make it with rice (or even with no grain. My wife's aunt makes it that way).
1/2 cup olive oil 1 large, yellow onion, thinly sliced 1 cup dry lentils 3 1/2 cups cold water 1 cup uncooked white rice 1 tsp kosher salt
Inspect the lentils for small stones, or non-lentils, and throw those out. Rinse them in water. Put the cold water into a pot large enough to hold 2x the volume (the lentils and rice will expand a bit while they cook), add the lentils, and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add the rice and salt, and continue simmering until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes more. Don't let it get too dry, but you don't really want standing water at the bottom of the pot.
While the lentils are cooking, thinly slice the onion. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion, and cook until the onion is caramelized. I'll start it at medium high, and when the onions start to show some color, I'll turn down the heat gradually as they cook. You want them to turn a nice brown and start to become crispy, but don't burn them.
When the lentils/rice are done, top with the onions, and enjoy!
The above recipe is more authentic, but lately I've been making mine with brown rice, which I think has a better flavor/texture, and is more nutritious. The brown rice needs more liquid, so increase the water to 4 cups if you're using it. It also takes longer to cook, so you can put the rice and lentils (and salt) in at the same time, and save yourself a step!
We had this for dinner last night with hummous and cut carrots. My kids love it.
This is another ubiquitous dish, but from a different tradition. As above, there are hundreds of ways to make it. This is my favorite.
1 cup dried black-eyed peas (or field peas) 2 Tbs. Olive oil 1/4 lb. bacon or smoked hog jowl 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped 2-3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped 6 cups broth (pork is traditional, but any kind will do) 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes 1 tsp. salt 1 1/2 cups long grain rice scallions (green onions) for garnish
Inspect the dried peas for small stones, or other objects that aren't peas, then soak them in water for 4 hours or more. They'll expand somewhat as they soak, so make sure the water covers them by an inch or more. I'll typically start them soaking in the morning if I plan to cook this for dinner. Soaking them overnight is fine.
When you're ready to cook, bring the broth to a boil, drain and rinse the peas, and then add them to the boiling water. Add the pepper, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes also. Boil uncovered for about 10 minutes, or until the peas are almost tender (undercook them rather than over cook them at this point). Add the rice, cover the pot, and lower the heat. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is done.
While the peas are cooking, in a separate pan, render the fat from the bacon or hog jowl. You can add the meat to the broth (gives more flavor), or, if using bacon, I'll save it and crumble it over the top of the dish at the end (Fried bacon will be crispy, boiled bacon is not). Cook the onions in the rendered fat until they soften, then add the celery, and cook until it softens. Then set them aside until the beans and rice are done.
Stir the celery and onions into the beans and rice, and garnish with chopped scallions and bacon.
This is another family favorite. If you're not as picky about how your onions/celery are cooked, you can add them into the broth with the rice and save a step, but that makes them mushy. I like them with just a bit of bite to them. I also omit the crushed red pepper, since I can't eat nightshades, but it does make the dish taste better.
Another famous dish, from Italy this time. You can buy it pre-made in tubes at many grocery stores, but it's easy to make your own.
1 cup coarsely ground corn meal (sometimes labelled polenta, sometimes grits) 3 1/2 cups cold water salt to taste butter (optional) cheese (optional)
Bring the water to boil and add the salt. Remove the pan from the heat, and slowly stir in the corn meal (it helps to avoid making lumps). Return the pan to the heat and reduce the heat until the mixture just bubbles. Cook it for 10-15 minutes, or until it's thickened and the water is absorbed.
This is a very versatile dish.
You can eat it as it is for breakfast, with some butter and cheese.
I'll fry and egg and top it with that.
You can also treat it as though it were pasta, and top it with pasta sauce. You can do that as it comes out of the pan, as a thick cereal, or more usually, pour it into a rectangular baking pan and refrigerate. When it's cool, you can cut it into squares. Now it'll be more like what comes in the tube in the grocery store. I'll usually fry the squares in a little bit of butter or oil to heat them up before coating with pasta sauce.
If you make this ahead of time and store in the refrigerator, it may count as an emergency meal, as jarred pasta sauce can be quickly heated and poured over the top.
I hope this helps - I have tons more recipes if you want.
Cookies and pancakes definitely do not need gums. In fact, one of the pitfalls of making pancakes with wheat is that if you stir them too much, the glutens develop, and the pancakes end up tasting tough. gluten-free pancakes are easier to make, since you can stir them as much as you want, with no fear of making long strings of gluten!
For breads, glutens typically act like velcro - they hold everything together. That's how you can get high rising soft breads with wheat flour, but gluten-free breads are (comparatively) dense and crumbly.
Gum doesn't really replace gluten, but it acts in a similar manner, and helps to hold the dough together more when it rises.
I doubt that you'll be able to make a nicely textured bread without some type of stabilizer, but it may be possible to do it without xanthum or guar gum.
I've heard of some people using Psyllium Fiber (the active ingredient in Metamucil) as a replacement for the gums, but I haven't tried it myself. It may be worth a try.
I'd read up a lot on the chemistry of bread baking before you start practicing, and be aware that you may need to make a lot of bread in order to find out what works and what doesn't.
Tell us what you have to work with. I've got some nice recipes for meat/rice, beans/rice, noodles, etc.
Are you living in the dorm, or do you have a kitchen available? What ingredients do you have?
The best advice I can give (3 years in), is that you need to PLAN for food. If you think you can ignore it and pick up last minute quick dishes (like everyone else in college), you're going to get sick.
Make a plan. Cook food ahead of time, if you can. Freeze some things, keep some things in the refrigerator.
I now eat at least as well as I did before I 'got sick', but it takes a lot more planning, and more time in the kitchen. It's hard at first, but better once you've been doing it for a while.
Yes - the specification is because a lot of commercially available rice flour is ground rather coarsely, which leaves baked goods with a gritty mouth feel. You want the flour to feel like flour, not like fine sand.
FYI - I buy mine from Asian or Indian grocery stores, and it's all finely ground, plus cheaper than you can get it at health food stores.
I've been meaning to add to this thread for a while, but I'm too lazy to post every night, so here's our menu for the past week:
Monday - Corn/Quinoa pasta with pumpkin/italian sausage sauce, steamed broccoli Tuesday - Meatloaf with baked sweet potato fries, peas Wednesday - Hoppin' John with cornbread, braised chard Thursday - Pulled pork tacos with guacamole, pinto beans, corn Tonight - not sure yet - maybe salmon patties and rice with onions
I get that. I used to feel the same way.
Now I'm gluten-free, AND dairy-free, AND nightshade-free, (and probably xanthum gum-free). I know people who are gluten-free, dairy-free, and corn-free.
Note that none of this is by choice.
It's actually nice to be able to eat some things they sell at the supermarket.
(although nightshade-free means I can't eat most of the gluten-free products that are on the shelves, as most of them contain potato starch.)
Sorry to hear you're having so much trouble. I don't know whether this will help you, but here's my story:
I had no problems that I noticed until I got close to 40, then I started noticing that I didn't feel well.
I couldn't even define what felt wrong, so I didn't see a doctor for it at first. Over time, I noticed that my periods of not feeling well coincided with the food I ate. If I had a bagel for breakfast, I'd feel dizzy, nauseous, and out of sorts for an hour or two, then feel more normal again.
I thought maybe I had some early symptoms of diabetes, as my father has Type II, so I saw the doctor, mentioned my worries, and had some blood tests done. I showed up as normal for all the tests that were performed.
At this time, my chest pain started to worry me. My cholesterol was high, so my doctor prescribed a simvastatin to reduce it. At one point, I ended up checking myself into the ER for chest pains + heart palpitations. They put me on a heart monitor for an hour or so, then sent me home. That episode prompted a stress test (running on a treadmill) and sonogram. The nurses afterward commented that I was one of the healthiest people they'd seen in a long time. No problems were discovered.
I kept feeling ill, and started keeping a food diary. My AHA! moment occurred one evening when my wife was out and I was watching the kids alone (3 & 5 at the time, so needing a fair amount of concentration). We had spaghetti for dinner, and I felt really woozy afterwards. I was dizzy and nauseous - much like having had 3-4 beers, but without the good feelings associated with that. I'd had no alcohol. It was pretty scary, considering I was alone with two small children.
I noticed then that all my episodes appeared to correlate to wheat products.
I called my family physician the next day, and told her I thought I might have a gluten problem. She told me to try eliminating it from my diet, and see whether I felt better. (btw: That's probably considered bad advice by many, as it will influence the blood tests - I considered it so for a while, but now I'm not sure any more.) I eliminated gluten for my diet for a week, and felt better than I had in a long time. I told my doctor, and she sent me to a GI specialist. It took 2-3 weeks to get an appointment with him, and I felt better on the gluten-free diet, so I kept it up. When I saw him he asked about my symptoms. At the time I was experiencing severe stomach pain, nearly constant gas, early satiety (I'd eat less than 1/3 of a normal portion at dinner, then feel so full I was unable to eat anything else), chest pains, blurry/double vision, and the aforementioned dizziness/nausea when I was eating gluten. I'd also lost about 30 lbs. in the previous month or so.
The specialist completely ignored my neurological symptoms (dizziness, blurry/double vision), concentrated on the GI symptoms (stomach pain, gas, early satiety), and dismissed the chest pains as GERD.
He put me on high strength antacids (Prilosec) and scheduled an endoscopy and blood tests. I mentioned that I'd been on the gluten-free diet for almost a month, and that according to what I'd read, that would affect the blood tests. We agreed that I'd eat gluten again for a week, then have the tests, although he didn't seem to think it was necessary.
I ate gluten again for a week, then had the tests done. The endoscopy turned up negative for Celiac, but did show some damage and a partially healing ulcer (thus the severe stomach pain). The blood tests returned negative. I told him the Prilosec was not making a difference, and he upgraded it to Nexium (newer version). I took 3 doses of the Nexium, decided it was making me feel WORSE, not better, and quit it.
When I mentioned that to the specialist he was at a loss, and ordered a PH test (http://heartburn.about.com/od/diagnosingheartburn/a/phtest.htm) this would involve a tube stuck down my throat for 24 hours so he could monitor the PH balance of my stomach acid over time.
By this time I was starting to feel better, and was personally convinced that gluten was the issue, even though all of the tests he'd performed came back negative. I ended up refusing the PH test, on the grounds that it was pretty invasive, and that I was already feeling better from the gluten-free diet.
I never went back to his office.
I've never been formally diagnosed with any problem.
This all happened about 3 years ago. At the time I was convinced I had cancer or worse, and was probably dying (I do have a family history, and lost a brother to Leukemia when I was in HS). Today, most days I feel normal, although following the diet is a big PITA. When I don't follow it, I have near constant diarrhea, joint pain, heart palpitations, dizziness/nausea, stomach pain, severe tiredness, and probably other symptoms I'm forgetting.
Last year, we noticed my son appeared not to feel well. He just turned 6 a week ago, so he was probably about 4 1/2 at the time. He used to be the happiest kid you've ever seen, but he started becoming irritable and cranky all the time. We also noticed he was having a lot of diarrhea. It took about a year (one of his doctors died suddenly after administering some tests, but before discussing the results with us, and it took us a while to find a replacement), during which we kept feeding him normal (= containing gluten) food so as not to influence the test results, but his endoscopy and blood tests ended up returning the same as mine: there was noticable damage to the esophagus and stomach lining, but no signs of Celiac, and his blood tests came back negative.
We put him on the gluten-free diet anyway. Since then his personality has almost completely reverted to what it used to be - he's again a happy, cheerful boy. He's gained about 10 lbs, and has grown at least an inch. He was so small as to be off the charts before, but now he's at about the 15% area for height/weight by age.
Based on the above experience, my personal advice would be to try the gluten-free diet for a while, and see if it makes you feel better. My personal experience has been that most doctors (in my area anyway) have little understanding of gluten intolerance, and that the blood and endoscopy tests are not accurate enough to catch all the cases.
I know there are a number of people on this board who have similar stories.
I hope this helps, and hope you find a way to feel better.
I don't have this particular flask, so I can't comment on quality, but I do have a different brand I bought a couple years ago. I find them useful for carrying hot food on occasions where I know I won't be able to eat anything.
Typically, they're $40-$70 each. This one's on sale for $15 (+$5 s&h) today (Friday, Nov 11th) only.
This one's a bit nicer than mine in that it comes with a carrying case, but otherwise they look similar.
Check it out at: http://www.onedaybuys.com/JustDeals-deals-V657/13-Piece-Stainless-Steel-Vacuum-Flask-Lunch-Set-185398
One thing to be careful of -- on mine, only the body of the flask is properly insulated. The lid is only partially insulated, so whatever food is on top (there are several internal containers) tends to get cold faster than the food on the bottom, so pack accordingly.