Q&A With Gluten-Free Cookbook Author Elizabeth Kaplan

By: Healthy Eats
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Photo by: Mark Whitehouse ©2010 MPW Photography

Mark Whitehouse, 2010 MPW Photography

 Q: What inspired you to start your business, The Pure Pantry, and later develop a cookbook?

A: When I was diagnosed with celiac disease ten years ago there were very few good-tasting gluten-free products on the market. Since my children and I are also allergic to dairy and my son is allergic to nuts, nut flours, beans and bean flours, it was difficult to find products, such as pancake mixes, cake mixes and cookies mixes, that were free of all allergens. So I began creating my own at home and that’s where it all started.

The cookbook, Fresh from Elizabeth’s Kitchen: Gluten-free & Allergy-free Recipes for Healthy, Delicious Meals, was born out of my true love and passion for cooking and baking. Ever since I was a little girl I have been experimenting in the kitchen, creating my own recipes and collecting cookbooks. Many of the recipes in the book are re-vamped childhood favorites that I used to bake for my family and for the many baking contests I entered as a girl. I wanted to share my collection of recipes with others who may need some inspiration in the kitchen since gluten-free cooking and baking can be a challenge.

Q: Can foods be gluten-free and still taste good? 

A: Of course! Developing good-tasting gluten-free recipes has been my focus for the last 10 years.

The fun part of this challenge is doing recipe “make-overs” and serving them to people who don’t have to eat gluten-free to see if they notice that the gluten is missing. For example, I often make homemade cakes or cupcakes and serve them at birthday parties and office parties. I usually do not disclose they are gluten free. They disappear in seconds and no one knows the difference!

Q: What are some healthy alternative grains to wheat and how do you bake with them?

A: I love cooking with quinoa and baking with quinoa flour, almond flour, brown rice flour and chia seeds or flour. I have created a gluten-free flour blend that gives you some flexibility in what you add. The base for it is brown rice flour, potato starch flour and the third grain can be millet, quinoa flour, almond flour, etc. Baking gluten-free is a challenge but by blending various gluten-free flours, you can get a wonderful and healthy result.

Q: What types of foods are most challenging to create a gluten-free alternative? Do you have some recipes that you are most proud of because of this?

A: The most challenging recipe to create was a gluten-free/dairy free Banana Coconut Cream Pie. I am most proud of it because I created a dairy-free pastry cream made out of coconut milk that I use as a base for a variety of recipes. I also created a gluten-free graham cracker crust for this pie. When I make it for a dinner party, or just for my own family, every crumb is literally gone in minutes!

Q: Specialty flours and gluten-free products can sometimes be expensive—what are some of your low-cost favorite ingredients?

A: Since we really don’t spend a lot of money eating out, I tend to focus on buying best-quality organic ingredients for our family. We avoid prepared and frozen foods and these are quite expensive. Instead, our diet consists mostly of organic produce, grass-fed protein and organic grains. Quinoa is a staple in our house and is very low in cost yet nutritionally dense with protein and fiber. I am lucky that everyone in my family enjoys quinoa. We also eat a lot of lentils in soups and rice & lentil dishes – they are delicious, very high in fiber and low in cost.

Q: How do you cook for an entire family when only certain members need to eat gluten-free?

A: Well, my husband is the only one in our family of 5 who is not gluten free but he goes with the program since I am doing most of the cooking! All of our extended family and friends are used to eating gluten-free at our house and they honestly never complain.

Q: How do you navigate through restaurants and other “outside” foods to feed your family gluten-free foods when you don’t have time to prepare something in advance?

A: Eating out has gotten easier over the years, thank goodness! We occasionally go to restaurants that have gluten-free menus and shop at natural food stores that have wonderful things to go such as gluten-free pizzas, soups, roasted chicken and grilled vegetables. We do not eat at fast food restaurants but occasionally will order Mexican food to go.

Q: What is one of your own family’s favorite gluten-free recipes?

A: Everyone in my family has their favorites. My daughter loves quinoa and her favorite thing is my Quinoa Tabouli recipe, my middle son’s favorite is Apple-Cinnamon Crepes, and my youngest son loves Blueberry-Oat Pancakes with Blueberry-Agave Syrup. My husband adores anything I make but his favorite dessert is Sticky Toffee Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce. The recipes for these are all in my new book.

Q: How do you educate your family on gluten-free living? Do you cook together? Shop together?

A: My children have been raised gluten-free so they are completely used to it. My youngest son was saying “gooten fwee” when he was 18 months old! We bake together frequently and the kids love to shop at the farmers’ market with me. My daughter who is now 16 helps with the family business at food shows and assists in my cooking classes. She is an excellent baker. She hears me speaking all the time about gluten-free living and has absorbed so much information. Young people love speaking with her because she is very comfortable with sharing her knowledge about gluten-free recipes and tips.

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