Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gluten-Free Cookbook

I just got a new cookbook from Amazon for review:  Cooking For Isaiah by Silvana Nardone   It was one of the two that I mentioned the other day.

I think Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free cooking would be hard, though it's becoming easier with the increase of products now available in mainstream super markets. Even General Mills is coming out with Gluten-Free baking mixes. But, for families that want to cook from scratch and not use premade gluten-free products, cooking has a lot of challenges. I was really curious how Silvana Nardone would deal with the struggles of substituting wheat and dairy in this cookbook. 

Rachel Ray wrote the forward for this cookbook, but I've found that her recipes often use expensive ingredients and are more time intensive then they sound. Honestly, I haven't liked her cookbooks or recipes.  So, I wasn't sure how this cookbook would be. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Silvia Nardone did just what I hoped she would--she developed a gluten-free flour that can be made into a pancake mix and used in a variety of other ways. She generally uses normal ingredients outside of the flour ingredients themselves. To make this mix more affordably, you can grind your own rice flour using a Nutrimill (though I'd suggest you call the manufacturer for tips on how much at a time to grind because I had a friend who was helped by doing this). It won't grind the other ingredients, but you can get them in bulk at some Whole Foods or at Amish Markets (which would likely be the cheapest option). But, if you're not in a big city, Bob's Red Mill products are carried by many main stream grocery stores now.  Usually, people use spelt as a substitute, but you're still stuck needing good recipes using that substitution.

I was a bit surprised with her choice to use vegetable shortening for baking as a substitute for butter. But, I realized that while Ms. Nardone is taking out the wheat and dairy, she wasn't taking out the partially hydrogenated fats or high fructose corn syrup. I did a little research though and the verdict (at least on the internet) is that fully hydrogenated shortening is okay--it has no trans fats and Crisco makes a shortening that fits this bill. She also uses Marshmallow Fluff and Light Corn Syrup in a few recipes. 

The other substitution she makes is rice milk--which I think is a great choice. It tastes far better than the others and it's least expensive of dairy alternatives if you get it at Trader Joe's. I used to have to drink it because I was lactose intolerant for 2 or 3 years in my 20s.  I'm trying not to give too much away, but I don't think I am, because it is her recipes, experiences, and stories that make this cookbook what it is as much as her flour substitution recipe. 

As for the recipes, they'd be great for adults. Many of the recipes are far simpler to make and in flavor than the names would make you think--which is a good thing. It would be very easy to modify the recipes and make them little kid friendly by taking out a few of the spices or decreasing them. The main dishes are much more to the tastes of adults than children--but I think that is one of the easier meals to modify--baking and breakfast are far trickier. Her recipes don't use non-dairy cheses, which are expensive and taste different. 

I think this would be a great cookbook to try--even if the main dishes aren't to the taste of you or your family. Her ideas and flour recipe are worth the cookbook.  I haven't made any of the recipes yet, but I'm going to make the butternut casserole tonight and I'll post tomorrow how it turns out!  It's a good one to check out from the library first--to see how you like it.  If you do, would you please comment and let me know how you like it?

She does have a website that looked great:  And on her site she lists her favorite gluten free websites.  So, I think if we had to go towards a gluten free diet--I would definitely start there =)

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