Against the grain

Gluten sensitivity poses challenges for families

This gluten-free French bread will satisfy a desire for the crusty bread while avoiding any allergic reaction. See the recipe on page 2C. Below, a great-tasting, gluten-free pizza crust is possible with the right ingredients and technique. The dough, including sorghum and tapioca flours, is prebaked for 10 minutes before adding whatever favorite topping are desired, then finished baking for 20-25 minutes.

A great tasting gluten-free pizza crust is possible with the right ingredients and technique as seen here in this Thursday, May 8, 2008 photo. The dough, including sorghum and tapioca flours, is prebaked without toppings for 10 minutes before adding whatever favorite topping are desired then finished baking for 20-25 minutes.

Gluten-free Lemon Olive Oil Cookies are seen in this Thursday, May 8, 2008 photo. These cookies make use of lemon olive oil that produces a cookie that is chewy, tangy and rich in complexity. The Gluten-free flours made from rice, tapioca and almonds used in the recipe are becoming more available in main stream supermarkets.

Ten Tips on how to make your life gluten-free

¢ Load up on fresh fruit.

¢ Cut the fat.

¢ Eat salad twice a day.

¢ Make your own gluten-free, low-fat dressings (commercial dressings may contain grain vinegar).

¢ Round out your day with baked, steamed, stir-fried or roasted vegetables.

¢ Have a stash of recipes for special occasions.

¢ Educate yourself on health issues.

¢ Follow the “Little House on the Prairie” model (always bring gluten-free food and drinks with you).

¢ Teach yourself one new healthy, gluten-free recipe each week.

¢ Keep your pantry well stocked.

– From JoAnn Farb’s

When JoAnn Farb gave birth to her second child, her joy was soon coupled with concern over a feeling that something just wasn’t right.

Her daughter, Samantha, now 10, was eating sparingly despite acting hungry, and she always seemed like something was upsetting her.

When Samantha began to talk, she immediately began to complain of stomach aches soon after eating.

Farb brought Samantha to one doctor after another trying to figure out the problem.

“And the doctor kept saying, ‘Oh, kids have tummy aches. It’s nothing. She’s healthy,'” says Farb, a Lawrence resident and author. “She kept saying, ‘My tummy hurts!'”

Negative on stomach ulcers, still positive for stomach aches.

When Samantha was 8, a friend told Farb she could test for sensitivity to gluten through a non-invasive lab test. The test came back positive – Samantha was producing high levels of antibodies that mark sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats, Farb says.

Samantha was having an auto-immune reaction to gluten that had been causing her stomach aches. The family finally had an answer.

They also had another surprise – the rest of the family, JoAnn, husband Joe and daughter Sarina, 14, also tested positive for gluten sensitivity.

While an estimated 1.5 million to 3 million Americans have celiac disease, a condition that leaves them unable to digest gluten, Farb believes as many as 1 in 3 of us have some level of gluten sensitivity.

Going gluten free

Once she knew the cause of her daughter’s ills, Farb hit the books and the Internet researching ways to overhaul her family’s diet. The family already followed a vegan diet – meaning they eat no meat or animal by-products – and many of the recipes and tips Farb found weren’t appropriate.

“We were already used to eating a whole foods, plant-based diet. When we decided to go gluten free and I was trying (to figure), ‘Now, how do I do all the grains and the breads and the baked goods?’ and I started looking at cookbooks and the mixes in the store and everything everywhere, pretty much, as soon as they took the gluten out, they added all kinds of processed starches, extra sugar, extra fat, sometimes even trans-fats were being put in and often dairy and eggs,” Farb says. “And so I couldn’t find any recipes that really worked for our family.”

She began playing with staples of a gluten-free kitchen on her own, working with things like nutritional yeast flakes, xanthan gum and flax seed to create gluten-free recipes. Eventually, she created enough dishes, from appetizers to desserts, to write and self-publish a cookbook, “Get off Gluten!” which is being sold locally at The Community Mercantile, 901 Iowa, as well as online at and at Farb’s Web site,

Danna Korn, the author of several gluten-free cookbooks also turned to creating her own recipes when her son was diagnosed with gluten intolerance 17 years ago.

“I walked into a store and said, ‘Hi, where’s your gluten-free department?”‘ Korn says. “There was one type of bread that was less tasteful than sawdust glued together. I cried as my son ate it.”

Today, choices abound. Once a niche of the natural foods market, gluten-free products now can be found in mainstream grocers. Even King Arthur Flour Co. is launching a line of gluten-free mixes.

But for Farb, these processed products are just a bandage for bad eating habits.

“It seemed to me, we made this change to improve our health, so why would I want to give up using whole foods for processed, refined ingredients and that’s why I wrote my book. Because I started having to create recipes to work for us and then I thought, well, other people might be interested in healthy gluten-free eating,” Farb says. “Too many people out there think that just getting the gluten out of their diet is going to save their health. And if you look at the products that are catering to this community, I think they’re going to have a lot of health problems down the road from eating that way.”

Link to other problems

In Farb’s research, she has found that prolonged exposure to gluten could be at the root of many diseases for gluten-sensitive people.

“They’re connecting gluten now with neurological issues, with behavioral issues, learning disabilities, autism, schizophrenia, and not that it’s implicated for every person who suffers from these, but they’re finding large numbers of people who suffer from these things are doing better when they get them off the gluten,” Farb says. “And many of these people test negative on traditional celiac screenings.”

For these reasons, as well as the family’s day-to-day wellness, Farb is glad Samantha’s tummy went off in alarm.

“She may be just the canary in the coal mine,” Farb says of Samantha. “We suffered so long not knowing that something really simple could fix our problem, for my daughter and for the rest of us, we didn’t have obvious symptoms.”

Gluten-Free Lemon Olive Oil Cookies

Start to finish: 3 hours 15 minutes (40 minutes active)

Makes 10 large or 15 small cookies

1 cup sweet rice flour

1 cup tapioca flour

1/2 cup almond flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup high-quality lemon olive oil

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

In a large bowl, combine the sweet rice flour, tapioca flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a second large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the olive oil and 1/2 cup of sugar until well combined. Add the egg and blend. Slide in the sour cream and lemon juice. Mix until a cohesive mixture has formed.

Slowly fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, a quarter cup at a time. Incorporating the dry goods slowly improves the texture of gluten-free baked goods.

Add lemon zest at the last moment. The dough will be sticky.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Form the dough into small balls. Roll each ball in the bowl of sugar and place the dough balls on the prepared baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet.

The cookies will be soft and cakey, not crisp. Carefully transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to rest for another five minutes, during which time they will harden.

(Recipe from Shauna James Ahern in “Gluten-Free Girl,” Wiley, 2007)

Chocolate Chip Flax Cookies

3 cups ground flax seeds

3 cups sorghum flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon xanthan gum

1 3/4 cups maple syrup

3/4 cup canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 10-ounce bag of gluten-free/dairy free chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the flax, baking powder, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum in a large bowl and blend with a wire whisk. Place the syrup, oil and vanilla in the blender and blend well. Add the wet to the dry and mix in the chips. Place teaspoonfuls of dough about 1 inch apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes.

– From “Get off Gluten” by JoAnn Farb

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

3/4 cup warm milk (about 110 degrees)

1 teaspoon sugar

2/3 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon gelatin powder (such as Knox brand)

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Rice flour, for dusting

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a 12-inch non-stick pizza pan. In a small bowl, combine the yeast, milk and sugar. Stir to dissolve, then aside for 5 minutes. In a food processor, combine the milk mixture with all remaining ingredients except the rice flour. Process until the ingredients come together and form a ball. The dough will be soft. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Liberally sprinkle the dough with rice flour, then use your hands to press the dough into the pan, continuing to dust with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Make the edges thicker to contain toppings. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the crust from the oven and add sauce, toppings and cheese. Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.

– From “Gluten-Free Quick & Easy” by Carol Fenster

Gluten-Free French Bread

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/4 cups warm water (about 110 F)

3/4 cup sorghum flour

1 3/4 cups potato starch

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon guar gum

1/4 cup powdered milk

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

4 large egg whites, at room temperature

Line a two-baguette French bread pan with parchment paper or coat with cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and water and stir until dissolved. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the flour, potato starch, xanthan gum, guar gum, powdered milk, salt, butter, cider, 3 of the egg whites and the yeast mixture. Beat on low to blend. Once blended, beat on high speed for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough will be soft. Transfer half of the dough to each side of the prepared pan. Use a wet spatula to smooth each into a 12-inch loaf. Lightly beat the remaining egg white, them use a pastry brush to lightly coat the top of the loaves. Use a knife to cut 3 diagonal slashes (about 1/8 inch deep) across each loaf. Place the pan on the middle rack of a cold oven. Set the oven to 425 degrees and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until nicely browned. Remove the bread from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

– From “Gluten-Free Quick & Easy” by Carol Fenster

Cheddar Souffle

(Start to finish 40 minutes)

5 tablespoons butter, plus 2 teaspoons

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup rice flour

2 cups whole milk

1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

6 egg yolks

2 teaspoons fresh thyme

2 teaspoons salt

2 pinches nutmeg

4 egg whites

Preheat oven to 375 F. Use the 5 tablespoons of butter to grease six 6-ounce ramekins. Dust the insides of the ramekins with the Parmesan cheese, wiping away an excess from around the rim.

In a small saucepan over a medium heat, melt the remaining butter. Add the rice flour and cook, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the milk and whisk until thick and incorporated, about 5 minutes. Add the Cheddar cheese, egg yolks, thyme, salt and nutmeg, stirring until the cheese is melted. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Use a mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the egg whites into the cheese and milk mixture until just incorporated.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins, leaving 1/4 inch space at the top. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes six servings.

(Recipe from Dina Altieri, instructor at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt.)

Apple Crisp with Ice Cream

(Start to finish 1 hour)

For the crisp:

9 large apples (such as Empire or Macintosh)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch salt

3/4 cup rice flour

2 teaspoons tapioca starch

8 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly spray a 9×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Peel and slice the apples into medium-sized wedges. In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice, orange juice, orange zest and ginger. Transfer the apples to the prepared baking pan. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, rice flour and tapioca starch. Pulse until the mixture resembles a crumble. Sprinkle the crumble over the apples.

Bake 45 minutes, or until bubbling. Serve topped with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

Makes 6 servings.

(Recipe from Dina Altieri, instructor at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt.)