I became interested in gluten-free baking after my father was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 1992. He loved desserts so I began experimenting at home with substitute ingredients. When I managed to create something that tasted really good, I wrote down the recipe. Slowly, I began getting a collection of these recipes and I typed them up and bound them into a small book. I gave the book to my mother for Mother’s Day. She began telling her friends about the book and many of her friends had children/neighbors/associates who also had celiac disease, so they started asking for copies of the book. I would run to Kinko’s to make copies and give the book away. In the meantime, I kept experimenting and kept adding recipes to the book until, in its final version, there were 250 recipes. At this point, I realized the need in the celiac community for a book like this…this was the genesis of my career writing gluten-free cookbooks.
I have spoken to groups in 37 states and have loved every moment of it. My husband and I have enjoyed traveling the country and meeting so many wonderful people. When speaking to support groups, I receive as much or more than I give. Members came up to me and explained how they had lost so much weight before being diagnosed, then they put on weight once they went on the diet. I listened… and this led to the writing of my second book, Wheat-free Gluten-free Reduced Calorie Cookbook. But the most significant feedback I received was from people who were celiac but also diabetic, or vegetarian, or allergic to one or more foods. Some were in tears as they told me that they lived on broiled chicken and boiled broccoli. I decided to experiment to see how many really good recipes I could develop that even people with multiple food allergies could safely enjoy. The Recipes for Special Diets cookbook was the result. This was by far the most difficult book for me to create. Each following book I’ve written has been in direct response to comments from these support group meetings. The most significant gratification I get from speaking is when there are newly diagnosed members in the audience. When I tell them that they can eat “anything”, all of their favorite foods, just by making them a little bit differently, you can visibly see the relief in their expressions.
These bags are nothing short of a miracle. When traveling, celiacs can place their gluten-free bread in a bag and ask a restaurant to toast it for them and there will be no fear of cross-contamination. At home, they are perfect for making toasted cheese sandwiches or warming up a piece of pizza without dirtying a pan. They can be used in any toaster with wide slots, a microwave, in a George Forman grill, and even in a toaster oven. There are two bags in each package and each bag may be used up to ten times.
First, this book is not just wheat-free but all recipes are gluten-free. Most people lead busy lives and can’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so they need really simple fare that is still nutritious. Kids need to become aware of their diet restrictions and learning to cook is one of the best ways to accomplish this… plus, if they have prepared the meal themselves, they are more likely to eat it, even the vegetables! There is very little prep work to these recipes and no mixer or fancy gadgets are used. In the front of the book, the recipes are divided into categories: 1) Cooking with 5 ingredients or less; 2) Foods that take 35 minutes or less to prepare; 3) Cooking ahead (foods that may be assembled ahead, refrigerated, then baked at the last minute); 4) No-help recipes (foods youngsters can “safely” prepare with little or no adult supervision). There is even a chapter of “Kitchen Crafts” which can be made with gluten-free foods.
For my books, I use the same basic gluten-free baking mix for all recipes. This way, people can sift large amounts; freeze it in plastic bags, then just measure out what they need when they are ready to bake. My basic mixture consists of rice flour, potato starch flour, tapioca flour, garbanzo bean flour, cornstarch and xanthan gum. I included the gum because it freezes well and it’s one less thing you have to measure at baking time. In my newest book that I co-authored with Danna Korn, Gluten-Free Cooking for Dummies, the bread recipes are based on this basic flour mixture, but additional flours are added to achieve a texture comparable to wheat bread. The added flour is usually sorghum flour because it helps to create the tiny air pockets that make bread light. Occasionally I like to use coconut flour and almond flour. I also add light ground flaxseed meal to as many recipes as possible because it has no taste, it adds fiber, and it reacts like adding extra eggs – making the product much lighter in texture.
As I mentioned above, my newest contribution is the book Gluten-free Cooking for Dummies which I co-authored with Danna Korn. This book has just been published and it is truly unique. If a person can only have one gluten-free book, this is the one. It is filled with humor as it explains how to deal with this diet in the real world. Included are 150 of the best gluten-free recipes you will ever have the gratification of tasting. I have just begun working on my next project… but that’s still a secret!