Vitacost Haul Video: Gluten-Free food, supplements, natural home care & personal care items

*I purchased all of these items and receive no compensation from Vitacost for this post, although affiliate links may be included. What follows are my honest opinions*

If you read my post about Barganic Alerts you know that I am really passionate about making natural, green-living choices accessible to anyone who desires to make them. Throughout my evolution as a parent and as a person, one of my goals has been to seek out healthier foods, which for us includes prioritizing organic foods, avoiding GMOs, and respecting our gluten and dairy sensitivities. This can add a lot to our food cost bottom line, but it is well worth it to me; better health is priceless.

In addition to what we put in our bodies, I am also mindful of what we put into our home environment via cleaning and household products, and what we put on our bodies through cosmetic and personal care items. This week, research out of University of California-Berkeley demonstrated that by swapping out just a few personal care products for ones with safer ingredients, the chemical body burden of teen girls decreased significantly within a period of a few days. This powerful finding only serves to reinforce for me the importance of prioritizing healthy products for my family.

The desire to buy the best food, supplements, home, and personal care products that we can afford has moved me to research the resources available to us in our community and through the interwebs to stretch our dollars. There are a few online retailers that I have found who offer very competitive pricing on high-quality natural, organic, and food allergy-friendly food items. Vitacost is a retailer that I shop with often for supplements, personal and home care items, and nonperishable foods. Not only is the value very good, but they offer an extensive range of products that are not always available to me locally.

Recently I got an email from Vitacost promoting a 15% off any order of $100 or more. This was the motivation that I needed to place an order. I also went through ebates and earned an additional 4% off of my purchase. You can see the complete haul video above. A select few of the items that I ordered were excluded from the promotional offer, but I still found the Vitacost price to be better that what I could find elsewhere.

I encourage you to do your own research to see how pricing compares to what is available near you. To give a sense of the prices during this deal, I have provided a sample of my purchase prices below. The promotion is no longer active, but Vitacost frequently offers various deals. You can sign up for their emails to be alerted of sales.

Prices are before tax and do not reflect the additional rebate received through ebates. For ease of comparison, I have converted pricing for “bulk” items into price per ounce or per pound as appropriate.

Xlear Spry gum 600 count: $33.99
Herbatint Permanent Haircolour Gel: $6.79
Ancient Secrets Bath Salts-2 lbs.: $7.51
Biokleen Automatic Dish Powder-32 oz.: $6.54
Ener-G GF pretzels: $2.16/bag (8 oz.)
Kinnikinnick GF graham crackers $3.29/box (8 oz.)

So what do you think, are these prices a good value for your area? Do you have any healthy food and personal care resources to share?

If you are new to Vitacost, this link will save you $10 off of your first order.

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The Halloween Fairy Spills the Beans: Resources for Natural Halloween Candies & Food Allergy Safe Treats

Crunchy Parent-Where to easily find treats for a natural, food allergy safe Halloween

As I recently mentioned, our children work in partnership with the Halloween Fairy every year. The kids go Trick-or-Treating and gather candy throughout the neighborhood. At the end of the evening they each get to keep any non-edible Halloween goodies as well as select 5-10 pieces of their Halloween loot to enjoy over the days ahead. They have to avoid their specific allergens, but we allow them to save candies even if they contain food dyes or artificial flavors, genetically modified sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc., which of course is in basically all conventional candy. I cringe a bit inside, but it’s about finding balance so that is the route that we take right now.

When the selections are complete, the kids gather up the remaining candy and leave it in their collection buckets for the Halloween Fairy. During the night, the fairy comes and takes the candy, to be distributed later to children who did not get to go Trick or Treating on Halloween. In exchange for the candies left, the Halloween Fairy always delights our kids with very special sweets and treats that are free of artificial dyes and flavors, and do not contain the allergens that each child avoids. She also gives them small gifts that are non-edible.

The children are always so excited to wake up in the morning on November 1st and see what treasures await them. The Halloween Fairy seems to know some really esoteric and amazing Halloween treats. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to interview the Halloween Fairy and she gave me the exclusive scoop as to where to find some of her favorite natural and food allergy-friendly Halloween treats. I went and toured some of the local spots myself, and am excited to share my finds with you. The Halloween Fairy even told me about some online resources for those who prefer to shop online.

We also talked about a lot of great non-edible gifts that she brings to delight children too. I will post a second interview recap in a couple of days with those ideas. For today, we’ll consider this a celebration of the edible abundance that is Halloween to many children, with gratitude that the Halloween Fairy makes that aspect healthier and safer for many children.

Just before we get to that, she asked me to mention that she takes care to consider our children’s food needs which include sensitivities and allergies of varying degrees to gluten, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame depending on the child. What she brings my children may not meet the needs of your children in terms of ingredients or manufacturing purity. Always read labels and consider the needs of your child before adding it to your approved list for the Halloween Fairy. Now, on with the show….

Probably the most widely accessible natural candy resource that the Halloween Fairy mentioned is the local drugstore. On a recent trip to Walgreens, I spotted one of our longtime-favorites, natural candy brand YumEarth (formerly Yummy Earth). We fell in love with their products back when all they made were delicious lollipops. They have since expanded the line to include gummy candies, jelly beans, sour gummies, hard candies, and licorice. All of their candies are free from most common allergens, organic, and GMO-free. They do not use any artificial colors or flavors. Moreover, their flavors are a blend of the more unique (e.g., tangerine/mango, blueberry, pomegranate) and the classics (e.g., grape, cherry, strawberry). All are delicious. My local Walgreens carried a selection of their line that I know would be a happy find on Halloween morning.

YumEarth sighting at Walgreens.

YumEarth sighting at Walgreens.

If the drugstore selection leaves you wanting for more, the local Target store also carries YumEarth products. They are even 10% off in my Target Cartwheel app right now, and Target had some really cute Halloween-themed YE products. In addition, Target carries other natural candy options including Surf Sweets (see below).

Depending on the dietary needs of the children in your home, Target offers many choices. Our local Super Target carries Unreal chocolate products. The brand started as a response to the artificial ingredients found in common candies like M&Ms. They tweaked the concept, making their candies fair trade and free of GMOs and gluten. They also only use natural color in their candies, and leave out any artificial flavors. Their signature “chocolate drops” contain dairy, but a number of their candies, such as their dark chocolate peanut butter cups are both gluten and dairy free. Check their website for store locations. Not all Target stores carry their line.

Justin's organic peanut butter cups and nut butters at Target.

Justin’s organic peanut butter cups and nut butters at Target.

If nuts are okay for your child, Target also carries a selection of organic, GMO-free, products from Justin’s, including their dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and single-serve sized squeeze packs of sweet nut butters like maple or vanilla almond butter or chocolate hazelnut butter. Justin’s even makes snack packs of their nut butters with gluten free pretzels for dipping.

BarkThins at Target. Yum!

BarkThins at Target. Yum!

Another win for the chocolate lovers, Target has a selection of snacking chocolates from BarkThins. We absolutely adore their blueberry quinoa variety which does not contain any gluten, dairy, or nut ingredients. BarkThin’s products are also Fair Trade and free from GMOs.

Gluten free granola bars at Target. Some contain nuts, some do not.

Gluten free granola bars at Target. Some contain nuts, some do not.

Of course, not all sweet treats need to be candy to be enjoyed for Halloween. Target has a host of dye free and food allergy friendly granola bars and cookies, as well as dried organic fruits, and delicious toasted coconut chips free from GMOs.

Organic banana chips and coconut chips at Target. Puts some natural sweetness into Halloween.

Organic banana chips and coconut chips at Target. Puts some natural sweetness into Halloween.

Another favorite shopping destination for us, that the Halloween Fairy seems to favor as well is Trader Joe’s. There you can find a host of more natural sweet treat options. They do a very nice job of highlighting items that are vegan, as well as those that are gluten-free or free from gluten-containing ingredients.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Honey Mints are great for a more natural or food allergy safe  Halloween with only three ingredients.

Made with only three ingredients, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Honey Mints are great for a more natural or food allergy safe Halloween.

I am a huge fan of the Trader Joe’s three-ingredient, dark chocolate honey mints. They are a much purer, healthier, and creamier version of York Peppermint Patties. Other family favorites include TJ’s vanilla meringues, gluten free ginger snaps, and naturally colored and flavored fruit jellies, among so many other great options.

Trader Joe's natural Fruit Jellies.

Trader Joe’s natural Fruit Jellies.

It came as no surprise to me that the Halloween Fairy mentioned Whole Foods as a great place to find Halloween treats that could be enjoyed by children with differing food needs. On a recent trip to Whole Foods, Alina and I quickly stumbled upon an entire food-allergy friendly, dye-free Halloween display with brands like YumEarth, Justin’s, Annie’s Homegrown, Surf Sweets, and TruJoy.

Whole Foods Halloween display of natural and food-allergy safe candy treats.

Whole Foods Halloween display of natural and food-allergy safe candy treats.

Alina was especially captivated by a bag of Surf Sweets gummy spiders and Truejoy’s organic fruit chews, which are comparable to Starbursts. The aisles of Whole Foods were packed with myriad candy, non-candy sweets, and less sweet options that would be very well-received by my kids come November 1st morning.

Food Allergy safe chocolate candies at Fresh Thyme market.

Food Allergy safe chocolate candies at Fresh Thyme market.

My talk with the Halloween Fairy even inspired me to check out my local specialty grocer, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market. They are a small healthy, fresh, grocery chain in the Midwest. Fresh Thyme had wonderful food allergy-friendly chocolate candy options; a host of raw, organic, vegan, and gluten free macaroons and granolas, and even raw, sprouted cookies. I also saw micro-brewed, natural, sodas that would be a huge treat for my girls; some of which were even stevia sweetened to temper the sugar rush that is Halloween.

All natural and stevia-sweetened sodas.

All natural and stevia-sweetened sodas.

If you follow me on Twitter you know that I even walked out with my own bag of Hail Merry macaroons that were somewhat alarming in their deliciousness. I am sure that other smaller grocery chains that cater to a “healthier” demographic would have similar offerings. You may want to direct the Halloween Fairy to them if she is less familiar with the smaller markets in your neighborhood.

Delicious Hail Merry macaroons offer another natural, gluten-free, vegan treat option from the Halloween Fairy.

Delicious Hail Merry macaroons offer another natural, gluten-free, vegan treat option from the Halloween Fairy.

The Halloween Fairy is as busy as the rest of us this time of year, if not busier. Sometimes online ordering can simplify or ease the process of getting all of the goodies that will be “just right” for the children that she will be visiting. She shared with me that one of her very favorite online resources is Natural Candy Store. Everything that they sell is free of artificial flavors, sweeteners, and dyes; as well as being free of preservatives and hydrogenated oils. They also have an amazing special diets search option that allows the buyer to select the exact allergens that they need to avoid, as well as the level of stringency for each ingredient (e.g., “no milk ingredients” vs. “strict milk free”).

I recognized many of our favorites from the Halloween Fairy at this site, including some absolutely delicious stand-ins for Snickers, Butterfinger, Milky Way, or Three Muskateers bars. I cannot express how special it is for my children to receive those “real” candy bars once a year. They look forward to it so much, and always hope that the Halloween Fairy remembers these favorites.

Other candies that the kids often see but don’t get to enjoy due to allergies included versions that they could eat of candies such as taffy, Tootsie Rolls, and candy corn. I also loved these fun Halloween lollipops. They reminded me of a year that the Halloween Fairy got especially ambitious. She ordered lollipop molds in Halloween shapes and made her own lollipops for my kids-oh Halloween Fairy, bless your heart.

Actually, the Halloween Fairy has surprised the children with many successful homemade goodies over the years. This can be a great option to ensure that she knows exactly what ingredients were used and to save money versus purchasing all of her specialty treats. She has left small bags of popcorn or vegan caramel corn, vegan pumpkin seed brittle, maple candy, crisped rice marshmallow treats, and homemade marshmallows. We really think that the Halloween Fairy rocks.

Of course, some years the Halloween Fairy likes to let her Amazon Prime account do the heavy lifting for her. She can order and have everything delivered right to her door in a snap. Sunkist Fruit Gems are a great Amazon option because they seem almost impossible to find in stores. Perhaps it’s because they are gluten free, colored and flavored naturally, and are made in a peanut free factory. They also have a satisfying gummy texture that doesn’t make the crowns on my teeth twitch, so that’s a win. YumEarth and Surf Sweets can also be found on Amazon. For the gum chewers, Amazon carries Spry, Glee, and Pur, all of which are free of artificial flavors and dyes, and are sweetened with xylitol.

With so many options, the Halloween Fairy could easily shower your child or children with Halloween abundance to rival that of any conventional candy-eating kid. Of course, not every family is looking to place so much emphasis on the candy that surrounds the holiday. As mentioned earlier, the Halloween Fairy also talked with me about some of her favorite non-edible gift ideas. She mentioned many of the things that she has left for my kids and many others over the years that have been well-received, and have helped to carry on the memory of Halloween longer than an overindulged-Halloween-induced stomachache might ever last. In fact, they are so delightful that you may just decide to go candy-free for Halloween altogether.

I will be recapping the non-edible suggestions from the second part of our interview in the days ahead. Please be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com so that you don’t miss out on this, and other exclusive magical interviews. Happy (almost) Halloween!

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The Halloween Fairy: Bringing Balance and Food Allergy Safety to Our Holiday

Photo credit: tinyfroglet / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: tinyfroglet / Foter / CC BY

I have very fond memories of Halloween from my childhood. There was just something so exciting about going around the neighborhood dressed up as a magical character of some sort. I loved seeing all of the other costumed children running through the streets, excited to receive delightful treats at every house. I remember my sister’s utter despair one year when she could not come with us because she had chicken pox on Halloween. I carried a sign and collected candy on her behalf so that she would not be left out of all of the fun (and since she had caught the chicken pox from me, it seemed to be the least that I could do).

My siblings and I would end each Halloween night sorting through our bags of goodies and counting up the pennies that we had collected in our UNICEF boxes. After enjoying a few sweet treats, and participating in some intense candy-trade negotiations, our bags of candy were stored on top of the refrigerator where we could not easily reach them. A piece or two of candy would be dispensed to us each day to enjoy, unless of course we pulled a kitchen chair over to the fridge when our parents weren’t looking. Then it was all “Lord of the Flies” as we stuffed candy into our mouths and pockets. Eventually, the favorites from our bags were all gone (mom and dad may have helped, but I have no official confirmation of this). The less desired candies languished at the bottom of the bag, growing stale. Ultimately they were abandoned and thrown in the trash.

The reality is, a lot of the excitement of Halloween for many children is the sheer kid-anarchy of it all; you wear fantasy clothes outside, approach unknown houses, and come away from the night with as much candy as you can carry. It’s madness, I tell you. The feeling of abundance and wildly increased access to candy are often part of the magic of the holiday. In truth, it’s more than children need to make special Halloween memories. Having a large enough haul to be eating candy bars every day for weeks on end seems like an unnecessarily long, sugar-fueled, holiday celebration.

Like many parents, when I had children I looked forward to sharing experiences with them that would create memories like the fond ones from my childhood. When I had my first baby, Halloween took on a refreshed sense of fun. I loved dressing Eva up for her first Halloween, creating a costume from clothes and objects from around the house like we used to do as kids (she was a basketball player). Candy was unnecessary, and I wouldn’t have fed it to her anyway. For her first few Halloweens, candy and going Trick-or-Treating really played little part in the holiday for us; it was about the pumpkin patch, carving Jack-o-Lanterns, roasting pumpkin seeds, and dressing up. Eva also really enjoyed greeting other children who came to the door, and handing out candy to them. It was like an endless play date of generosity.

Somewhere around Eva’s third Halloween, the idea of going Trick-or-Treating with a friend from the Waldorf school was presented and planned. One day in the parent-child class at school, the adults were doing handwork and chatting about autumn festivities while the children played. The teacher overheard our Halloween discussion and asked us if our homes had ever been visited by the Halloween Fairy. This was a new idea to me, so I was all ears. The teacher went on to explain that the Halloween Fairy provides a service for children who have not been able to go Trick-or-Treating for some reason or other, perhaps because their sister gave them a communicable illness. She visits homes on the night of Halloween, gathering candy that has been left for these children by generous Trick-or-Treaters. In exchange for the candy, she leaves a gift or gifts for the children who shared with her.

I thought that this was brilliant! Eva could participate in Trick-or-Treating, but we would not be negotiating candy distribution and consumption all through winter. The practice would also reinforce the idea of “enough” versus excess, quality over quantity; in addition to the concept of sharing good fortune with others. We talked with Eva about the Halloween Fairy, and left the fairy a note to let her know that we were happy to share with her that year.


sdixclifford / Foter / CC BY

That year and every year since, we have had a new ritual for our post Trick-or-Treating rounds. The kids dump, sort, and marvel over their candy stash. They then select 5-10 pieces of candy to keep and enjoy. The rest of the candy we leave out in the children’s collection buckets for the Halloween Fairy. In the morning, the kids are thrilled to find what has been left for them, and the trading and negotiations among siblings commences, just as it did when I was a kid.

Over the years we have been fortunate enough to have been visited by the Halloween Fairy many times. She even followed us to another state when we had an event on Halloween and our kids were the ones who could not go Trick-or-Treating. There was far less protesting and panic when they remembered that the Halloween Fairy wouldn’t leave them out of the holiday. Other children would collect and share on their behalf, just as they had done in past years. Likewise, if Trick-or-Treating is ever cut short by bad weather, scheduling challenges, tired siblings, or whatnot, there is less pressure to make it to a certain number of houses to get “enough” candy. The kids know that whether they collect ten pieces of candy or one hundred, they will have the same amount of candy to enjoy by the next morning.

The Halloween Fairy respects the choices that we make to generally avoid ingredients like artificial flavors and food dyes. She has always left the children with fun, but healthier candies and snacks. When we discovered that the children had various food allergies and sensitivities, the Halloween Fairy adjusted her gifts to include candies that were safe for our kids and all of their dietary needs. They were beyond thrilled to get special treats that they looked forward to every year (I’m talking to you gluten free, vegan, non-GMO Milky Way bar). Long before The Teal Pumpkin Project and Halloween food allergy awareness was “a thing”, it made receiving Trick-or-Treating candy on Halloween that they could not eat less frustrating. They knew that the Halloween Fairy would bring that candy to another child who could eat it, and they would get allergy-safe candies in exchange.

I have been pleased to see that each year the Halloween Fairy has left the children a combination of sweets and candy alternatives such as small gifts. I’m excited that the children get to experience a part of the magical abundance of the holiday. I like to think however that when moderation is the norm, this occasional abundance is more memorable, and doesn’t require an “anything goes” quality to feel really special. They can relate to peers who are telling captivating stories about their Trick-o-Treating spoils and snacking on their booty, but they are not in an endless sugar coma for the month of November, or ingesting foods that make them feel sick. They also have lasting, useful items that help them remember the fun of Halloween and the magic of the Halloween Fairy long after all of the candy wrappers have been thrown away.

I am excited to announce that I was able to secure an exclusive interview with the Halloween Fairy. She shared her secret resources for the best places to find healthier and food allergy-friendly treats and snacks, as well as ideas for non-edible Halloween treats.

I hope that if the Halloween Fairy sounds like a good match for your family, she will find her way to your home this year. How do you balance abundance with healthy moderation in your home for Halloween?

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Recipe: Gluten, Dairy, and Nut Free (with Superfood Bonus)

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread-gluten, dairy, and nut free with hemp seeds

We’re celebrating another birthday around here. When asked what she wanted for breakfast on her birthday, Alina said that she wanted banana bread. Since I had a bunch of bananas on my kitchen counter growing ever-browner and squishier, I was all too happy to oblige. What with it being a birthday and all, chocolate chips seemed to be an appropriate addition. I have even made this recipe into 2 round pans in the past and frosted it as a layer cake for a child’s birthday (put chocolate chips in it and frosting on it, and it’s cake to me).

I like this recipe because it uses a lot of bananas, which lend a great deal of flavor, sweetness, and moisture to the recipe. As a result, you can scale back the sugar and oil if you desire and depending on your other plans (e.g., with chocolate chips and frosting, I’d cut back on the sugar. If you add seeds or nuts you might want to pull back on the oil). I add hemp seeds to all of my quick breads because they boost the protein, fiber, and nuttiness and make me feel mildly less guilty when I gobble a second piece.

*brown sugar not pictured because I forgot it in the photo*

*brown sugar not pictured because I forgot it in the photo*

Makes 1 9×5 inch loaf or approximately 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:

2 cups 3, 2, 1 Flour Mix! or other gluten free flour blend
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. grape seed or coconut oil or a blend of the two.
2/3 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/3 c. mashed overripe banana (approximately 5-6 large bananas)
2/3 c. semi sweet chocolate chips (dairy free; technically optional)
1/2 c. hemp seeds (this brand is my favorite; also optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Banana bread-dry ingredients

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir to combine.

Banana Bread-oil and sugar mixing

3. Mix together oil and sugar.

banana bread adding eggs and bananas

Add eggs and mashed banana, mixing until well blended.

banana bread-adding chocolate and hemp

4. Add flour mixture, chocolate chips, and hemp seeds to banana mixture.

Banana bread-mix to moisten

Mix to just moisten.

banana bread-ready to bake

Pour batter into prepared pan. If possible, try to use one that’s been in your mother’s kitchen since 1972. If you’re feeling especially festive, sprinkle top center of loaf with a handful of extra chocolate chips.

5. Bake in preheated for 65-75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (loaf is very dense and takes a while to cook through). Muffins will take closer to 30 minutes to cook through.

Banana bread fresh from the oven

6. Cool and enjoy!

This recipe also freezes well. I tend to make them as muffins and then freeze them to give to the kids as treats or as snacks in their lunch boxes.

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3…2…1…Gluten Free Flour Mix Recipe

flour

I tend to cook and bake a lot. They are among my favorite creative outlets, I think perhaps because the gratification of the end result is relatively quick, and because I like to eat. Once we became aware of Eva’s (and subsequently our other children’s and our own) food allergies and sensitivities it was all the more helpful to know how to make food that we could all enjoy and that tastes delish so that we didn’t feel like we were missing out.

One of the first things that I looked for was a good, solid, reliable flour substitute because it’s a complete staple in gluten free baking. There weren’t as many commercially-produced, gluten free, flour mixes available at that time, eight or so years ago, and prepared mixes tend to be costly. Store-bought GF mixes are great in a pinch or for those who don’t do much gluten free baking, but for our everyday baking needs I wanted something that I could whip up myself to have on hand, and I didn’t want too many hard-to-find ingredients. I trialed a lot of different flour combinations and settled on one based on rice flours and basic starches. I personally did not care for blends that used bean flours, as I didn’t like the flavor that they lent to my baked goods. I initially found this recipe on Food.com and have made some minor changes and notes to save cost and yield the best end result for your needs.

The proportions in this have always reminded me of a recipe shared by Dolly Parton’s character, Truvy, in Steel Magnolias, which is one of those movies that I can sit down and watch any and every time that it is on. At one point in the film Truvy is sharing her simple recipe for a dessert she calls, Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa (“It’s just a cup of flour, a cup of sugar and a cup of fruit cocktail with the syrup, stir and bake in a hot oven ‘til golden brown and bubbly.  I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness.”).

We use this flour mix absolutely all of the time and I’ll reference it a lot in my recipes, so it seemed important to share. Drumroll please……….

3…2…1…Flour Mix

3 Cups brown rice flour
3 Cups white rice flour
2 Cups potato starch
1 Cup tapioca starch
3 Tablespoons guar gum or xanthan gum

Stir it all together and store in an airtight container. Use in equal amounts as a substitute for all-purpose flour in any recipe.

And now for the important notes and tips and such….sometimes brown rice flour can be gritty and this will not yield the best results. Look for a brand whose flour you can see before buying to ensure that it is ground into a fine, uniform powder. I have had good luck with both Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill, but I am sure that there are other good brands.

As for the white rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch, I have found that these can be purchased relatively inexpensively at most Asian markets or grocery stores with good-sized international foods sections. These same products can be found at the health food grocery or specialty store catering to individuals with food allergies, but they will be far more expensive if you go this way. Of course, you are unlikely to find organic versions when going the international route, so it is up to you to determine what is the best choice for you.

For the thickening agent, I use either xanthan gum or guar gum interchangeably depending on what I have around. If you are baking for someone who is especially sensitive to corn, soy, or wheat, you may wish to avoid xanthan gum because it is grown on a host substance that is usually either corn, soy, or wheat. Sometimes the package will specify on what it was grown, but often it will not. Guar gum is derived from the guar bean and may be tolerated more easily by those who find that they are sensitive to xanthan gum. As with the flour and starches, it will be more expensive to source these through brands targeting food allergy markets. You can generally find xanthan gum and guar gum more affordably if you purchase them as supplements from brands such as NOW.

Enjoy, and if you have a flour mix (store bought or homemade) that you swear by, please share in the comments.

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