People suffering from gluten intolerance or celiac disease are often forced to miss out on some of their favourite foods once they are diagnosed. Say goodbye to many types of bread and baked goods, not to mention all the processed food products out there that may contain gluten where it’s not expected. This week I met with one such sufferer who wasn’t content to miss out on some of her favourite food. I discussed her with guest host Khalil Aktar on Food Matters.
We certainly do hear much more about people having to, or choosing to go gluten-free these days. I think part of it probably comes from a greater awareness of what celiac disease is and quicker diagnoses, and another part of it may come from people trying gluten-free diets because they believe there is some sort of health benefit to it, especially in the case of people suffering from some forms of auto-immune disease, with Rheumatoid Arthritis, for example, there’s been one study showing a vegan, gluten-free, dairy free diet can help relieve the inflammation associated with RA. So when I heard that a nutritionist up island had developed a gluten-free baking blend for things like cakes, cookies and muffins, I thought that was a natural way to go with the trend.
But that turned out to not really be the case… The nutritionist is Patricia Chuey, she lives just north of Nanaimo, but I knew her from her days in Vancouver when she worked with Save-On Foods, you may have seen her on billboards proffering a nice fresh apple to the world, and she co-authored a great cookbook based on her 80- 20 concept, that is, eat right 80 percent of the time and not be so careful with the other 20 percent. Anyway, when I talked to her this week I found out she started developing this product mainly for herself. A few years ago she was finally diagnosed with celiac disease.Armed with that diagnosis she started trying the various gluten-free products that are out there and she just wasn’t happy with what she found. Low in nutrition, made mostly with white rice flour, crumbly and tasteless and expensive. So she decided to start baking her own gluten-free goodies. Not so easy: “I started looking through cookbooks for recipes and I had to gather together so many flours and things like xanthan gum and guar gum that it was really a chore. So my husband and I started grinding our own ingredients and coming up with a mix that we could use pretty much one for one to substitute all-purpose flour.”
I had great success baking chocolate chip cookies and blueberry banana muffins with her blend at home. While at Patricia’s she served me equally delicious mini-banana muffins and a struesel cake from a recipe she found in Canadian Living magazine and substituted her blend one for one.Her blend is made of sorghum(a grain), white beans, tapioca and corn starch and xanthan gum, which is made from corn sugar and helps to make dough stickier and keep things together. The sorghum and beans are sourced in Canada from the Prairies, and Patricia can’t believe all the beans and legumes such as lentils that are grown in Canada and never consumed by Canadians…
Right now her production is fairly small. She’s doing mostly direct sales now, and some mail order, she will even be at the Lantzville Farmers Market when that starts up this spring. But so far so good: “Who knows where it will go, but everyone who has bought a bag so far has come back for more, and I’m trying to work on the packaging so I can offer it in a larger bag. Right now it costs $7 for a 454 gram bag, which will make you about two dozen muffins…quite a savings over paying 3 to 4 dollars per gluten-free muffin at a bakery.
Patricia is quick to point out she doesn’t believe in people going on a gluten-free diet if they are not gluten-intolerant. But she does advocate being careful with gluten products that you do consume, more whole-grain foods, less processed flours are a much healthier choice. To try more recipes you can order Patricia’s cookbook that she has revamped for gluten-free diets. Eating for Energy Without Deprivation: The 80-20 Cookbook (Gluten-Free Edition) is now a Kindle edition e-book.
And if you don’t like to bake there are some better-tasting gluten free products out there, and I’d love to hear from people who have found those products so we can share them around. Chef Janice Mansfield supplies gluten-free goodies to these Victoria spots: Nourish, AJs Organics, Township, and will soon to be at the Tin Roof in Cook St. Village. She also does a fair bit of custom baking for people who contact her directly at Real Food Made Easy.
The audio versions of my Food Matters columns are available on this All Points West webpage.