On occasion at The Savvy Celiac, I will share a recipe. But I know my strengths– and cooking fabulously creative gluten free meals and treats (and taking great pictures of them) is NOT one of them. But I also know to lean on my friends who have these skills.
Which brings us to this special feature that will appear each Friday during May (a.k.a. Celiac Disease Awareness Month). I will profile some great gluten-free food bloggers.
These folks are so much more than bloggers, they both provide valuable and reliable content about gluten-free eating and cooking, but they also help all of us with our greater gluten-free outlook and how we live it. The more confident you are about creating gluten-free foods, the better you feel right?
Being Gluten-Free Easily with Shirley Braden
Shirley Braden began her gluten-free advocacy more than 10 years ago. Her websites, GlutenFreeEasily.com (gfe) and AllGlutenFreeDesserts.com, help people better manage their gluten-free diet with great recipes.
After many years of unexplained health problems and ongoing painful symptoms, Braden found a functional medicine doctor. The doctor told her to go gluten free. Braden went gluten free and a month later, because of other sensitivities that were discovered, she went grain free, dairy free and “other frees” as she put it. She started feeling better about 3 months into the new diet regime.
“I actually felt worse the first month,” Braden recalled. “But once I started feeling better, I realized how ill I had been before and the difference in my health was amazing and wonderful.” After about 6 months, she was able to incorporate some of the eliminated foods back in — but not gluten.
With her health back on track, Braden and a friend started up the King George (VA) Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Support Group in 2004. Because her friend had to leave the group for other reasons, Braden found herself overseeing it all. “The support group has been successful from the beginning,” Braden said. “We added a agroup meal to our meetings. That was the best possible way to support others and give them a meal that everyone could eat and show them how to make gluten-free meals.”
On New Year’s Eve 2008, Braden started GlutenFreeEasily.com. “I had been sharing my gfe approach with support group members and they were being very successful with it, so I wanted to share it with many more people. So starting a blog seemed like the way to go,” Braden said. “I’d been reading gluten-free blogs and felt like I had something to add to what was being shared.” Gfe has about 400 recipes for all kinds of gluten-free food, including baked goods, appetizers and entrees.
Then in 2012 along came AllGlutenFreeDesserts.com, where Braden acts like a curator of sorts, finding the best recipes and sharing them with permission. “I have always been passionate about sharing all the terrific gluten-free recipes of others in the gluten-free community and we all love desserts, so AGFD just seemed like a logical thing to do,” Braden said. “It’s pure fun to share all that deliciousness and a variety of recipes as far as both types of recipes (cakes, pies, cookies, etc.) and other special diet categories (dairy free, vegan, paleo, etc.).” About 1300 recipes have been featured on this site so far!
With all of this expertise I had to ask her about some of her favorite things and even some mistakes she made along the way.
Favorite must-have ingredient/food in the kitchen: “I am going to cheat a little bit on this answer and say real food and by that I mean whole foods. There is no one gluten-free specialty ingredient that I need. As long as I have real food that’s naturally gluten free, I’m truly good to go!”
What kitchen tool can you not live without? “I have some excellent kitchen tools that I enjoy using, but the only one I could not do without would be a good wooden spoon. I mix almost everything by hand using my wooden spoon. I just like that process. I feel more connected with the recipe, I enjoy it, and using a wooden spoon helps me maintain my arm strength. That might sound silly, but losing arm strength can be an issue for women as they get older. Therefore, using tools that remove the need to stir, chop, etc. all the time is not necessarily a good thing.”
What is your biggest mistake from the gluten-free cooking/baking world? “Very early on, I tried using the standard gluten-free all-purpose flour mixes and baking mixes. The results not only tasted awful, had the wrong texture (gritty), and were overly expensive, but my body also did not fare well with many of the ingredients in such products. I had to step back and simplify the process, which was the beginning of my gfe approach.”
Braden describes her gfe approach as focusing on using real, whole foods, incorporating some mainstream processed foods that are gluten free, but using very few gluten-free specialty products. “With very few exceptions, [gluten-free specialty products] fall way short of anything you can make yourself,” Braden said. She says this approach has been easier, healthier and no more expensive than a traditional “gluten-full” diet.
Finding a gluten-free flour that worked for her and her recipes has helped. Her flour mix is Asian white rice flour and Argo corn starch. “Those are ingredients my body does fine with and the results when I used this mix were very close or even better than my old gluten-full recipes. In fact, most of the time I could just take an old recipe and replace the flour with this gluten-free all-purpose mix. I usually add some xanthan gum to the recipe, too, when using this gluten-free all-purpose mix.”
What is the best cooking/baking advice you can offer to the gluten-free community? “Focus on all the foods, recipes and meals you’ve always loved and see which ones are naturally gluten free, which ones just need a few tweaks and which ones are a big more complicated. Reserve the more complicated ones for a little bit later when you’re more comfortable with living gluten free and know the gluten-free resources (bloggers, cookbook authors, etc) that you trust to produce the results that you like.”
Braden suggests making a list with recipes in each of the three categories. Once you see this, you will be able to “start focusing on all that you can eat!” Braden believes this will help you shift your thinking and your approach to living gluten free will be come easier.
She has a few recipes that have been particularly popular, including her Pizza Bombs and Flourless, Doughless Pizza and Crustless Pumpkin Pie! I personally want to try the popovers! You can see the photos here, but click through to her website (from the links provided above) to get the full recipe!
Here’s where you can find Braden on social media;