Friday, June 8, 2012

Traveling Gluten Free and Homemade Jerky Recipes

Eating gluten free is so easy at home that I do not even have to think about it. We just do not buy any gluten-containing foods. No worries about cross-contamination. Until I step outside.

One of the downers about celiac disease is that it appears to be permanent. Mr. D and I wonder if we will ever be able to travel without my food being more hassle than it is worth. Yes, I hear that Italy is the best place in the world to eat gluten free, but the language barriers freak me out. If I cannot get waiters in the U.S. to understand what I mean by taking whatever steps are necessary to prevent cross-contamination, am I likely to fare better by presenting a card with instructions in their language to that effect? Plus, there are places other than Italy where we would like to visit eventually.

Theoretical woes aside, this is a very practical conundrum. What does one eat on a road trip? Some restaurants - mostly ones called Chipotle, where all the food is gluten free except the tortillas - are OK for a filling, tasty meal without being too expensive. Alas, along the 500 miles between our home and where I grew up and the rest of my family lives, there are no Chipotle locations to be found. Even if there were, snacks help make a long drive more bearable.

To drink, we enjoy bringing along a jug of kombucha or some chilled brewed herbal tea lightly sweetened with a touch of honey - it's like juice, but without the truckload of fructose to poison you along the way. It's most refreshing. Oh, and stainless steel bottles of well-iced water, because most snack foods are salty enough that you will want it!

Food just takes some thinking ahead, and this goes for any healthy or reasonably frugal food on the road.

Honestly, the most difficult part is getting enough healthy fats. Excellent ideas include starchy fruits (think bananas and berries), store-bought gluten free crackers, grass-fed whole milk cheese, and Mr. D's favorite, homemade grass-fed beef jerky. Avocados would be a fabulous snack, too.

Oh, did I say homemade jerky from grass-fed beef? Yep. Healthy jerky in any flavor you can manage to put together, and even $5/lb. ground beef will end up making fantastic jerky for less money, probably, than cruddy jerky. It was my husband who made the jerky for a recent weekend trip, and his ideas were so delicious I just had to share. He invented all four of the combinations suggested below.

for each pound of ground beef:
1 T. unrefined salt
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
lots of freshly ground black pepper

plus one of the following combinations, or invent your own:
- 2 T. gluten free soy sauce, 2 T. raw honey (warmed a little to facilitate mixing), a few pinches of ground cloves, and 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
- an additional 1/2 t. garlic powder, plus up to 1 T. each of dried rosemary, thyme, oregano, and basil; do not be shy with these!
- 1 1/2 T. gluten free soy sauce, even more black pepper, 1 t. paprika, and 1/2 t. red wine vinegar
- up to 1 T. ground cumin, 1 t. paprika, 1/4 t. mustard powder, and a little or a lot of chili powder

Mix ground beef and your flavor ingredients together thoroughly.

To make in a dehydrator: Spread no more than 1/4" thick on solid insert trays or parchment paper cut in the shape of your dehydrator trays. Using a dull utensil such as a butter knife, so as not to tear paper or damage trays, cut jerky into strips before it all hardens and becomes more difficult to cut. Dehydrate for at least six hours, but do check on it every hour after that and remove it as soon as it is not at all pink anymore but still soft. It will harden considerably as it cools.

To make in an oven: Spread no more than 1/4" thick on parchment paper or silicone baking sheets. Cut with a dull utensil. Put in the oven and turn it on to the lowest setting, ideally 150°F, and no greater than 200°. Check after 4-6 hours and take out while still soft.

Theoretically jerky does not need to be stored in the fridge, but I put it in there anyway just in case enough moisture might remain to make spoilage feasible. An airtight container is recommended as well.

While all of Mr. D's jerky was enjoyable, my favorite was definitely the version with Italian herbs that made the jerky taste like pizza. I was eating bite-size jerky atop crackers with bits of cheese, having what fun one can during a nine-hour drive. My least favorite was the cumin version, but I dislike almost anything spicy, and if you like spicy then you stand a good chance of enjoying it mightily.

What travel snacks do you like?

1 comment:

  1. The jerky sounds delicious. Driving down to Florida with my Mom, we packed bananas, yogurt, and created our own large fruit bowl which lasted a good while. These made for good snacks but the jerky is a great idea for protein and would be more filling.