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).