Beth Hillson Makes Going GF Easier Than Ever

The Book You Need to Navigate the Gluten Free World

The Book You Need to Navigate the Gluten Free World

My how things have changed. Take a look around these days, and gluten-free items seem to be everywhere. Some of the products leave alot to be desired, but most restaurants and grocery stores are trying to make an effort.

Well, forty, thirty, or even twenty years ago, this was not the case. Just ask Beth Hillson, author of The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten Free. Hillson got her diagnosis forty years ago, back when nobody had ever heard of gluten, much less, gluten-free. Celiacs were incredibly lucky to even be diagnosed, but incredibly unlucky when it came to dining options.

Back then, the doctor handed her a two page summary of everything they knew about celiac and going without gluten. Two pages. It reminded me of my Mother’s experience more like 25 years ago, when she was informed that she could not eat wheat any more, and given a one page sheet of foods that she could have. Jello and black coffee made the list. In both cases, the assumption was that you would now enter a world of extremely simple, home made foods, like plain meat, potatoes, rice, and a few vegetables. Spartan.

Fast forward to today, and you need 320 pages (the length of Living Well Gluten Free) to delve into the complex and expanding knowledge that you need to live without gluten. This isn’t a cook book, although it has a small section of recipes. It’s an up to date, comprehensive resource for anyone who has ever wondered, “what are the reasons for going gluten free?” or, “what the heck is gluten, and how hard is it to avoid?”

Even if you think you know alot about the issues, you will find something here that you did not know. In fact, Hillson has included a link to a quiz that you can take, just to see how much you know. I’ve linked to it here.

In the years since Hillson’s diagnosis, she has been busy. She went to culinary school, and took on the challenge of gluten free baking and cooking. She founded one of the early gluten free companies, Gluten Free Pantry, which she sold to Glutino in 2005. She is the food editor of Living Without Magazine, and the president of the American Celiac Alliance.  She published her book, Gluten-Free Makeovers: Over 175 Recipes-From Family Favorites to Gourmet Goodies-Made Deliciously Wheat-Free (Da Capo Press, 2011) Her popular blog, is a source for recipes and information, as well.

So whether you are mystified by the latest recommendation from your personal trainer (“get off gluten, it makes you fat!”) or you have a family member with some troubling symptoms, or you have a diagnosis and need to make sure you are doing this GF thing correctly, this book will help. It sure would have come in handy twenty years ago.

Beth Hillson's Banana Bread- Gluten Free and Delicious!

Beth Hillson’s Banana Bread- Gluten Free and Delicious!

Banana Bread

Yields 12 to 14 slices

Everyone needs an easy gluten- free quick bread in his or her repertoire. Delicious and versatile, this will become your go-to quick bread. You can keep it simple or dress this up by adding toasted coarsely chopped pecans, chocolate chips, or coconut. Swap the bananas for the same amount of pumpkin or sweet potato puree for another treat. For the best flavor, use very ripe bananas, the kind you’d be tempted to throw away. If yours are not overly ripe, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of banana extract to perk up the flavor.

3/4 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup cornstarch or tapioca starch
1/4 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/3 cups very ripe mashed bananas (about 3 large bananas)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the rice flour, sorghum flour, cornstarch, potato starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the knife blade, place the two sugars and the butter. Pulse until the mixture is crumbly, about 30 seconds. Add the bananas and vanilla, and pulse to combine. Add the eggs. Pulse until smooth.

Add the dry ingredients and pulse for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture is thick and smooth.

Transfer to the prepared loaf pan. Set in the middle of the preheated oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to set in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Wrapped in plastic wrap, this freezes well and will keep for 3 to 6 months.

This recipe may be reproduced with the following credit:

Recipes from The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten-Free: Everything You Need to Know to Go From Surviving to Thriving by Beth Hillson. (DaCapo Lifelong Press; September 2014; $17.99/Trade Paperback; ISBN-13; 978-0738217086).

Saving Basil for Winter, Before It’s Too Late

No Ice Cube Trays For Me!

No Ice Cube Trays For Me!

Here in Minnesota we are having a cold snap. That may sound redundant; Minnesota and cold snap are basically synonymous in the minds of people who live in other parts of the country. But here we are sailing along with our summer, wearing shorts and waiting for the heirloom tomatoes to ripen, and suddenly we have forecasts of 39 degree lows at night.

It’s painful, really. So I dragged out some sweatpants and a hoodie, just to soften the blow of wearing full-body clothing again.

And I harvested the basil.

Every year, I plant several basil plants, and revel in the joys of simple tomato basil salads, easy pastas tossed with herbs and veggies just picked out back, and pizzas on the grill. But when the temps get low, I know that the delicate herb leaves will start to get spotty and pale. One morning, I will walk out to see a plant with leaves that are blackened and inedible. I’ve let this happen, and cursed myself.

Why didn’t I pick the basil?

This year, I beat the chill. And being a person in a hurry, I used the tried and true method I have developed, over many years of just this sort of panicked harvest.

End of the Season

End of the Season

You see, there are lots of ways to freeze basil. The first that comes to mind is to make pesto. But the truth is, garlic degrades and tastes funny after a month in the freezer.

So never put the garlic in at this point. Ditto with salt, which only harms your delicate basil, and you can always add it later. No, keep it simple, just basil and olive oil. That also makes your basil more useful, you can use it in sauces, soups, even pesto, and just add whatever you want then.

So, just pick the leaves, was and spin dry, and put them in the food processor. Grind them dry. This will get you a better texture. Then, drizzle in just enough olive oil to make a paste.

At this point, Martha Stewart would put the paste in ice cube trays. Now I know that Martha rules the roost, but I tried this, and didn’t like it. Once the frozen cubes of basil are transferred to a zip-top or container, they have a lot of surface area that is exposed to air. This is the enemy of basil flavor. As the weeks pass, the basil starts to oxidize, and the cubes become shaggy looking. That precious summer essence escapes into the drying air of the freezer.

We don’t want that.

So my solution is to transfer the paste to heavy freezer bags, press out the air, and seal. Flatten the paste to a thin sheet. Freeze flat.

now, when you need a bit of basil, you can take out the frozen sheet and snap off a chunk. The basil is thin enough to break with your fingers. Put the unused bag back in the freezer, and toss the frozen basil right into the simmering pot of spaghetti sauce, or the processor bowl, where you have already minced your garlic and pine nuts.

Break off a Chunk and Go!

Break off a Chunk and Go!

Easy Peasy.

You don’t need a recipe. I filled my salad spinner to overflowing with basil, then processed it down to about 1 cup and a half of paste. In a gallon zip-top, it made a thin sheet. The bag could have accommodated twice as much basil.

So give my method a try before first frost.

You’ll thank me this winter!

It’s Whole Grain Month-With a Book Giveaway

Win a Bunch of Whole Grain and Sweet Recipes

Win a Bunch of Whole Grain and Sweet Recipes

September is Whole Grain Month. That means that for just a month, there is a push to raise awareness about the goodness of whole grains. The powers that be are letting you know how much better off our country would be, if only our citizenry would eat at least half of our grains whole.

Just imagine, from an economic perspective, how much we would save if heart disease were cut by almost a third, strokes dropped by a third, if diabetes cases dropped by 20%, if obesity became far less common? If we all got sufficient fiber and minerals, and multitudes of nagging health issues just evaporated?

If the millions of dollars of savings in health care costs are not motivating, just think of all that suffering. Have you had a family member who had a heart attack? I have, and sitting by that hospital bed, after the quadruple bypass, I saw how painful it all is, up close and personal.

But the public at large is still having a hard time making the connection. People are stuck in their habits, eating their refined white products and not making the change.

As far as I can tell, whole grain foods still have an image problem. It’s not that people haven’t heard that they are good for you, it’s that people haven’t learned just how delicious, satisfying, and beautiful they can be.

Forget everything you remember about whole grain breads that disappointed, and pastas that seemed to dissolve in the pot. Those days are over. If you haven’t tried them lately, prepared whole grain foods have gotten a major taste and texture upgrade.

And while you get your tastebuds accustomed to bread that doesn’t squish into mush as soon as you pick up the sandwich,  people like me do our best to create whole grain foods that will win you over. I’ll keep making muffins so delicious that nobody will call them health food. I’ll run to the kitchen to whip up quinoa salads and bulghar chilis and pastas that everyone will enjoy.

Because the greatness of whole grains is just too big to ignore.

In that spirit, I wrote a book a couple of years ago, featuring whole grain, all-plant based treats. Nothing refined goes into any of the recipes, the sweeteners are whole, the flours are whole, there is no margarine or fake food involved.

I’m giving away a copy, so you can try some tasty whole grain, vegan treats, you don’t have to buy a book! If you are not vegan, you can go ahead and throw an egg in there, instead of flax, and if you don’t care about whole sweeteners, you can use brown sugar instead of sucanat. But maybe you will like sweeteners like maple and palm sugar, once you give them a try.

Just for this month, make a plan to switch something you usually eat in a white flour form to a whole wheat version. Give it a month, try a few brands.

And get into whole grains, for flavor, fun and yes, healthy, healthy fiber.

It’s a win-win!

Just One of the Recipes from Sweet and Easy


Grape and Peanut Crunch (PBJ Crisp)

Serves 6

Everybody loves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, especially kids. This crisp is a fun and easy take on the familiar lunchbox combo, and it will probably get you more smiles than the sandwich. Now that organic grapes are available most of the year, you can make this crisp in the midwinter for a fresh fruit pick-me-up.

4 cups/600 g red seedless grapes, halved

1/2 cup/120 ml fruit-sweetened grape jelly

2 tsp arrowroot starch or cornstarch

2 tbsp fresh orange juice


2 cups/200 g rolled oats

1/2 cup/65 g whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup/55 g roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup/100 g granular palm sugar, palm sugar paste or Sucanat

1/4 cup/60 ml coconut oil

1/4 cup/65 g crunchy peanut butter

1/4 cup/60 ml nondairy milk


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put the grapes in an ungreased 2-qt/2-L 12-by-8-in/30.5-by-20-cm glass or ceramic baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine the jelly, arrowroot starch, and orange juice and stir vigorously until thoroughly blended. Stir the mixture into the grapes.

To make the topping: In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, peanuts, and salt and stir until well mixed. In a medium bowl or a food processor, combine the sugar, oil, and peanut butter and mash or process until thoroughly combined. Stir in the nondairy milk. Pour into the oat mixture and stir until well combined. Crumble the mixture over the grapes, distributing it evenly.


Bake for 35 minutes, until the juices are bubbling and the topping is golden and crisp.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes, then s erve warm. Stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, the crisp will keep for about 1 week.

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Tomato Basil Pizza, All About the Tomatoes

Just Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, and Basil, So Summer!

Just Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, and Basil, So Summer!

It’s tomato time, the time of the year when the genuine, vine-ripened flavor of just-picked tomatoes is exploding all over the place. In fact, if you are reading this on the Saturday that it posts, and you are within driving distance of St Paul, MN, you still have time to pick a tomato and come enter Marilyn’s Annual Tomato Contest.

I just happen to be judging this contest, on Sunday.

That’s right- Tomato lover that I am, I get to sample many, many tomatoes, and then try to pick the stand outs. Will there be intrigue, competition, the joy of victory and the agony of defeat?

Of course, but mostly, there will be one very happy Judge, fork in one hand, salt shaker in the other, swooshing and sniffing mouthfuls of ripe tomato as if they were fine wine.

If you are in the area, come see how it goes, at Marilyn’s Annual Tomato Contest, which starts at 2 on August 31st, at Freddies Tiki Hut, 1820 Rice Street in St Paul, MN. Of course, you don’t have to bring a tomato to have a good time. It’s a Tiki Hut with tomatoes, how could you not?

In anticipation of the event, I have been enjoying the heck out of my own tomatoes. This week the yellow pears and Santa Sweets have been delivering bowls full of tomatoey goodness. Enough, in fact, that I decided to make a roasted tomato pizza.

Just Picked From The Garden!

Just Picked From The Garden!

So, I cranked the oven to 425 and drizzled the tomatoes with olive oil. Too lazy to even halve them, I just wanted the heat to sear and concentrate all that tomato tangy-sweetness.

Roasted Until Collapsed and Blackened

Roasted Until Collapsed and Blackened

A few garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and a tomato topping was ready. I have a few versions of pizza crust that you can use to make this, or you can use your own.

Gluten Free Pizza

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

From there, all you need is some caramelized onions a handful of fresh basil and a hot oven (or grill!)

So if I see you at the contest, please say hello. If not, don’t forget to seize the waning moments of Summer and eat those full-on flavorful Summer tomatoes.

Roasted Tomato Pizza with Basil

Serves 4

2 large onions, slivered

extra virgin olive oil

4 cups whole pear shaped cherry tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise

coarse salt

2 10-12 inch pizza crusts, ready to bake

1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1. Caramelize the onions- heat the olive oil over medium high in a large saute pan, then add the onions. Stir until they start to sizzle and stick a little, then lower to medium. Stir often for about 20 minutes, reducing the heat as the onions soften. It’s best to give them 40 minutes more, at least, to fully caramelize, but if you want to stop as soon as they are golden brown, they should be pretty sweet. Sprinkle with a little salt.

2. Preheat to oven to 425 F. On a sheet pan or roaster, place the tomatoes and drizzle with oil, add the garlic and a pinch of salt and toss. Roast for about 30, until the tomatoes are exploded and blackened a bit. Scrape the hot tomatoes and their liquid into a bowl.

3. Prep your pizza crust for topping- cover with onions, then tomatoes. Bake for about 15 minutes. When the pizza is golden brown and crisp, serve, topped with fresh basil and a sprinkle of salt at the last minutes.

Celebrate Summer Fruit with Creamy Thai-Inspired Flavor

Creamy Thai-Peanut Sauce with a Fruity Twist

Creamy Thai-Peanut Sauce with a Fruity Twist

I love a big stinky melon. Yes, that musk melon that you can smell before you even get to the farmstand, it’s calling my name. It’s time to revel in melons, when the sun has bestowed full on sugary ripeness to all those fat fruits that have been baking in it since spring. Throw in some perfectly ripened peaches, bursting with juice, and you have yourself a real celebration of the end of summer.

It’s the best time of year to simply grill some corn and throw together a fruit salad, leaving your kitchen blessedly cool. But is your fruit salad getting a little boring? I know, it’s all about the great fruit, but does yogurt, or mayo, or some other creamy dressing seem to have lost it’s zing?

I was feeling a little need for something new, so I opted for a different kind of creamy: creamy coconut milk. Whisking in a little peanut butter gives it some nutty weight, and balancing some spicy, tart and sweet in the dressing really complements the fruit. A handful of Thai Basil for an herbal kick, and I had a whole new way to enjoy fruit.

It’s pretty mild, you can add a few chiles, or more Sriracha, if you want a little kick. But I sure loved my big fat melon with a new taste sensation.

Keep it simple, enjoy the end of Summer, and dig in!

Thai-Inspired Melon-Peach Salad with Thai Basil

Serves 4

1/2 large cantaloupe
2 large peach
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup peanut butter, creamy
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 tablespoon grated ginger root

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

1 pinch salt
1 handful Thai Basil

Slice the fruit. In a small bowl or cup, whisk the coconut milk and peanut butter until smooth. Stir in lime, palm sugar, ginger, Sriracha and salt. Sliver some basil for the salad, garnish with more sprigs.

Genius Miracle Cure, Click Here!

Straight Up Celery Juice

Straight Up Celery Juice

Have you seen those articles on how to get more clicks by writing an attention-grabbing headline? Something about getting rich quick, cute kittens, or celebrity sideboob, and you can pull millions of easily distracted eyes to your site.

Well, now that your eyes are here, I will share my miracle cure story. YES I SAID MIRACLE CURE. You see, after a day spent staring at the computer, working hard on my writing and editing (and only occasionally clicking on links to videos-silly kitten! That’s a duck!) I had a couple of glasses of wine with a lovely dinner and went to bed.

JUST A COUPLE. I swear. People over 40 will understand this.

And woke up with a headache. The kind that sits in your eye cavity, as if your eyes have grown overnight, and now uncomfortably squeezed by your skull. Lying in bed, contemplating taking ibuprofen, I decided to re-test an experiment I did when I was developing juices for my book, Juice It!

Back then, I had been researching the healing qualities of fresh juices, and found that celery has something in it that actually stops inflammation and swelling in your brain. It’s a flavonoid called luteolin. Celery is also high in calcium, which is good for headaches. Natural healers recommend celery as a first response to headaches and migraines. Ginger is another anti-inflammatory food, so adding a knob of it to your juice is also helpful.

Because Magnesium and Calcium are also good for headaches, leafy greens like kale, spinach and chard can be good for a curative drink. Many headaches are also exacerbated by dehydration, so drinking lots of water and juice is going to help.

But the day that all this really meant something to me, a year ago, I was about to have a full on migraine. I’ve only had a few in my life, and I had come to know the warning signs. I was seeing strobe-light rainbow flashes on the periphery of my vision, called “migraine haloes.” Nobody really knows why migraines come, or why they announce themselves with strobe lights, but they do.

So I had put together this recipe that was meant to cure hangovers. I put on dark sunglasses, and made the juice. (even low light hurts, with a migraine.)

Cranking Out The Remedy!

Cranking Out The Remedy!

The recipe Hangover Fix, featured in Juice It!,  is made from celery, spinach and oranges. That day, I drank the whole batch, went to bed, and woke up, migraine free.

So, for the benefit of science, today I am trying the celery juice on its own, to see if it works. Maybe I need the spinach and oranges, but I will let you know.


Okay, I just drank an entire bunch of celery in one glass.

(Now I am taking a nap for 30 minutes, zzzzzz)

Now I am up, and it’s a MIRACLE, almost. The headache is 90% gone, and has moved from behind the eyes to the area behind my forehead. It’s definitely one that I could try to ignore all day. But in the interest of science, I am going back to the juicer.

Round two, spinach, ginger, cucumber, two lemons, a couple of apples.

Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin C and Ginger!

Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin C and Ginger!

Okay, give me a little time to drink this, and I will report back……

30 minutes later, my headache is gone. (MIRACLE CURE)

Final analysis: Celery alone is not enough. It’s helpful, but you might as well add the leafy greens, ginger, lemon, and other stuff, just to cover all the headache helpers and make it taste better.

So here you go, you don’t have to click on a link to a pharmacy that sells blue pills, and I am not offering any celebrity nip-slip photos, but I think I have a good way to treat a headache without taking a pill.

Headache Potion

This makes alot, you can drink half today, half tomorrow, if you cover it and refrigerate.

1 bunch celery

5 ounces spinach (one bag salad or five cups leaves)

2 inch knob of ginger

2 lemons, cut off the peels

2 small apples

2 cucumbers


Juice, drink, lie down in a dark room.

Contemplate giving up wine, caffeine and chocolate. Wake up glad that you don’t have to. Here is a bonus kitten picture, of my adorable cat Sunshine.

Bonus Kitten Picture

Bonus Kitten Picture


You Can Eat Corn Raw? Minty Raw Corn Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Sweet, Crisp Raw Corn with Tangy, Creamy Green Goddess

Sweet, Crisp Raw Corn with Tangy, Creamy Green Goddess

Last week I did a fun appearance on Twin Cities Live, where I made some summery sweet corn dishes. At one point in the show, I said that the sweet corn right now is so fresh and sweet that you can just eat it raw. The show’s host was surprised. Of course, most people cook their sweet corn.

In fact, they probably overcook it. So why not go the other way?

The first time I really appreciated raw sweet corn, I was on a long bike ride with a friend, and we came upon a farmstand selling corn alongside the road. We pulled up and looked longingly at the corn, hungry and thirsty, baking in the sun. My friend grabbed a bag of the amazingly fresh corn, pulled out two ears, and stuffed the rest into her pack. We then stripped the husks and tore into those fat, juicy raw ears of corn.

It was like candy.

So, it has always been in my mind that sweet corn is absolutely good raw. Of course, it is pretty great boiled, grilled, sauteed, and just about any way that you want to cook it. As long as you don’t overcook it.

Corn in the Midwest is like a religious experience. The corn is the sacrament of Summer, to be prepared and revered for the fleeting experience it is. In fact, it’s almost not a vegetable, it a treat.

Which is lovely, I love it when people just love a food for its own qualities, and ignore the fact that it is good for you. In fact, most people think of corn as not really that good for you.

But in fact, sweet corn has really high levels of the lutein and zeaxanthin that protect your eyes from macular degeneration. Corn is a great source of protective antioxidants and carotenoids. It also contains some special fiber that beneficial bacteria in your gut just LOVE.  But let’s not talk it up to the kids, right?

Lovely Bicolor Corn

Lovely Bicolor Corn

In this salad, I used a handful of fresh mint, and a big chunk of one of the preserved lemons that I talked about in a past post. If you don’t have those, you can just use more lemon juice. The tanginess of the lemony dressing plays with the super sweet, tender-crisp corn in a way that will bring your palate to life.

So get into the quintessence of August with some pure, sweet, corn. It’s fleeting, don’t let it get away.


After Tossing, Sweet, Creamy, Delicious

After Tossing, Sweet, Creamy, Delicious

Minty Raw Corn Salad with Avocado Green Goddess

Makes about 6 cups


3 ears sweet corn, cut off the cob

3 small tomatoes

1 medium pattypan squash, cut in thin wedges

1/2 cup fresh mint, slivered

1 large scallion, slivered


1 clove garlic

1/4 preserved lemon, pulp and peel

1 avocado

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons vegetable stock

salt to taste- the preserved lemon is salty, you may need only a pinch

1. Toss the salad ingredients in a bowl. In a food processor, mince the garlic and preserved lemon to mince. Add the avocado, process, scrape down to make a smooth puree. Add the oil and lemon juice and process, and whip in the vegetable stock to make pourable. Salt to taste. Arrange the salad and drizzle the dressing over it. Toss just before serving.


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