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Gluten-Free Food is a valuable resource for people living with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) due to its extensive information and variety of recipes. While people with celiac disease must follow a restrictive diet, this cookbook offers a glimpse of the possibilities that lie beyond the world of wheat, rye, barely and oats.
What sets this book apart from other gluten-free recipe books is that it is as much a guide to managing celiac disease, as it is a cookbook. The authors cover everything from explaining the disease and its symptoms to tips for reading food labels to throwing a gluten-free children’s birthday party. There are even menu plans for different variations of gluten free diets, such as vegetarian gluten-free, lactose-free gluten-free and diabetic gluten-free diets.
Aside from the ample information provided, there are of course, plenty of recipes. Recipe categories include breakfasts, sandwiches, food for kids, soups, main dishes and desserts. Recipes include handy tips, an estimation of preparation and cooking times and detailed nutritional information. While all the recipes are gluten-free, the authors go one step further and mark every recipe with symbols to indicate if it is dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free or suitable for vegetarians, making the book an ideal resource for someone with additional dietary restrictions.
As you would expect, some of the ingredients the recipes call for are a little different than those in your average cookbook. Since no wheat or other gluten-containing foods are used in any of the recipes, ingredients such as chickpea flour, buckwheat flour and rice noodles take the place of their gluten-containing counterparts. While most of the ingredients are low in fat, there are a few recipes that call for calorie dense foods. (There is no reason why these ingredients couldn’t be replaced with lower fat versions if you are watching your fat intake.)
The first recipe I tried was the Walnut, Pear and Green-Leaf Salad. The recipe called for melted Parmesan cheese croutes, but I skipped this step to eliminate the dairy (I’m allergic) and to lower the recipe’s overall fat content. The dressing was a cinch to make and had a nice creamy consistency. The walnut oil in the dressing gave the salad a subtle nutty flavour that enhanced the flavour of the toasted walnuts and complimented the pears nicely. In one of my recipe tests, I added some dried cranberries to add a bit of colour. This recipe is versatile enough to be appropriate for a casual barbeque or a formal dinner party. I highly recommend this recipe and already have plans to serve it to my next dinner guests.
Next up was the Breakfast Cereal Bars with millet flakes, quinoa, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. The combination of grains and seeds caught my attention and I couldn’t wait to try this recipe out. I ran into a little hitch when the millet flakes were required in grams while everything else was listed in the standard units of cups and tablespoons. Since I don’t have a scale in my kitchen, I was left to guess how much should be added. Things were going well until I peaked in the oven while the bars were baking. It was obvious that there was too much butter, or in my case, margarine, in the recipe which was bubbling up around the bars. The recipe called for 1/2 a “scant” cup of butter, but clearly even that was too much. Whether my guesswork on grams or my interpretation of “scant” was to blame, there was no denying that the final product of soggy breakfast bars fell short of appetizing.
Finally, I decided to try the Sticky Chicken Drumsticks, a quick and simple chicken recipe. The combination of honey, lemon, orange and Worcestershire sauce gave the chicken plenty of flavour, and the leftover sauce that the chicken was baked in was a tasty sauce for the rice I served with the chicken. The recipe calls for the chicken to be baked in the oven, but it could easily be grilled on the barbeque for a more seasonal dish. Overall, the recipe was as quick and easy to follow, making it ideal for a weekday meal.
Gluten-Free Food contains valuable dietary information and, for the most part, appetizing recipes for a gluten-free diet. Overall, I’d recommend this book to anyone dealing with the challenges associated with celiac disease.
For more information on celiac disease, visit the Canadian Celiac Association.
By Michelle Gelok, BASc, Nutritionist, Assistant to Leslie Beck, RD
Whitecap Books, 2004
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