Lisa Howard first considered going gluten-free about five years ago.
The 37-year-old food writer and recipe developer from Michigan began dabbling with gluten-free baking because of the culinary challenges it presented.
“Gluten-free baking was a whole new … interesting field of sort … to get involved in and experiment with,” she said.
At the same time, Howard says, she began to experience gastro problems and stomach pain. Opting for a holistic approach, she put herself on an elimination diet to see whether food was the culprit. After forgoing and then reintroducing a series of common food allergens, Howard discovered gluten was affecting her health.
“It was a weird coincidence that after I started getting interested (in gluten-free) as a casual observer, it then became kind of a necessity,” she says.
Back then there were far fewer gluten-free products as there are now and the ones Howard said she could find didn’t meet her standards.
“When I started getting into commercially made GF (gluten-free baked goods) products I was horrified with what was on store shelves,” she said. “They don’t have much flavor for one and, at the same time, you just eat a bunch of starches.”
So Howard set out to develop her own recipes using a whole foods approach. The result is a new cookbook. “Healthier Gluten-Free: All-Natural Whole-Grain Recipes Made with Healthy Ingredients and Zero Fillers” is filled with recipes for gluten-free versions of favorites like baked goods and pizza. Nearly all recipes come with a recipe note about a specific ingredient or a tip or a technique.
“I hope that everyone — gluten-free and not gluten-free — can use this book to have a better understanding of quality ingredients and how they can improve their health,” Howard said. “And there is this fun thing about it. It’s a fun way to get involved with new things so they are not so scary. Maybe you haven’t had quinoa or brown rice pasta before. … I see it (the book) as being the bridge between the chef and dietitian.”
Collard-wrapped tuna and hummus rolls
2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced
15 ounces canned chickpeas, drained
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
8 large collard leaves
10 ounces canned tuna, drained
8 small radishes, trimmed, sliced thinly
4 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 small cucumber, cut into matchsticks
For the hummus, in a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over low heat for 1 minute. Add garlic and saute for 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant and turning light brown. Remove from heat and place garlic and oil in a food processor. Add chickpeas, lemon, tahini, cumin and salt. Blend until smooth, adding a little more oil or some water if the hummus is still chunky. Blend again. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Trim away any ragged edges from the collard leaves. Cut off the bottom 3 inches of the tough rib. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the leaves. Cook uncovered for 3 minutes, use tongs to promptly remove and let drain.
Spread a leaf out on a plate or cutting board and place a spoonful of tuna in the lower third of the leaf. Add radish slices, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, and a hearty dab of hummus. Fold bottom of leaf up onto the filling. Fold in each edge of the leaf and then roll up, turning it over and tucking in the sides until the leaf is a neat package. Place seam-side down. Repeat with remaining leaves.
From “Healthier Gluten-Free: All-Natural Whole-Grain Recipes Made with Healthy Ingredients and Zero Fillers” by Lisa Howard (Fair Winds Press, $24.99).
Serves: 4 (2 wraps each). Preparation time: 30 minutes
Almond sponge cake with chocolate ganache frosting
1/2 cup powdered sucanat
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup almond flour
1/3 cup sorghum flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
3.5 ounces dark chocolate (75 percent to 85 percent cacao)
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and thoroughly grease an 8-by-8-inch glass pan.
To make the cake: Place yolks, eggs, sucanat and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Whip on high for 4 full minutes with a hand mixer or a standing mixer. Quickly whip in the flours, baking powder and melted butter. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and warm. Let cake cool before frosting.
To make the frosting: Place a large mixing bowl and the beaters in the freezer. Break up the chocolate and place in a small saucepan over the lowest heat setting.
Melt slowly, stirring often. Remove from heat when the chocolate still has a few bumps and continue stirring to finish melting the chocolate. Set aside.
Pour cream into the chilled bowl and whip with the chilled beaters until you have fluffy but still smooth cream. Whip in the melted chocolate.
Frost the cooled cake and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set the frosting. Leftover cake can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Cook’s note: Make powdered sucanat by running granular sucanat through a coffee/spice grinder until powdery.
When you refrigerate the cake for more than a few hours, the ganache frosting will harden, so it’s best to let any leftover slices sit out at room temperature for an hour to soften before serving.
Multiseed multigrain crackers
1/4 cup assorted seeds (sesame, poppy, flax and/or caraway)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon dried herbs, such as basil, rosemary, thyme, sage or dill
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup plantain flour or corn flour (not cornstarch)
1/4 cup whole cornmeal
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup fava bean flour or chickpea flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water, or more as needed
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
For the topping: In a small bowl combine all the ingredients and set aside.
To make the cracker dough: In a large bowl, whisk the flours and sea salt together. Add the oil and water and stir until you have a firm dough that isn’t too wet but also isn’t crumbly. You should be able to easily shape the dough into balls. If it’s too crumbly, trickle in more water to reach the right consistency, adding 1 tablespoon at a time.
Divide the dough into 4 small balls and work with one at a time. Place a ball on the parchment-covered baking sheet and pat down to flatten. Sprinkle the dough with the seed topping. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough directly onto the parchment, adding more seeds if the dough starts sticking to the rolling pin. Gently flip the dough and repeat on the other side. When the disk is flattened to a rectangle that’s about 1/4-inch thick, (it’ll take up about one-quarter of the baking sheet), slide it to one corner of the sheet and repeat the process with the other 3 balls of dough. Press the quarters loosely together before baking.
Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until the edges start to brown and the cracker is turning golden. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. As soon as the crackers are cool enough to touch, break them up into smaller pieces.