New Gluten-Free Cookbook: Surprise! It’s Gluten-Free!
To honor our commitment to patient confidentiality, we rarely share the successes of our patients, and we would certainly never do so without their consent. However, one of our patients, Jennifer Fisher, recently published a fantastic cookbook titled Surprise! It’s Gluten Free! She’s excited to spread the word about it and share her story, and we’re pleased to be able to help her.
Jennifer is the real thing — a self-proclaimed carb-lover with severe gluten sensitivity, and a child who lives with the same sensitivity to gluten as she does. She also has a passion for cooking (and eating) a variety of gluten-free baked goods — breads, pancakes, waffles, cookies, cream puffs, pies, cakes, and donuts — along with a host of entrees and side dishes that traditionally contain gluten. We can’t imagine anyone better qualified to write a gluten-free cookbook, and Jennifer delivers with recipes for more than 100 entrees, breads, and desserts for you and your family and friends to enjoy. Every recipe is gluten-free and sure to fool even the most discerning palette.
Now we don’t recommend loading up on simple carbs of any kind, especially those high in sugar or artificial sweeteners, but occasionally treating yourself to the foods you love is certainly something we encourage. If the foods you love traditionally contain gluten, and you’re living with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity — or your Restoration Healthcare plan of care calls for you to avoid gluten — you know how difficult (impossible?) it is to find tasty gluten-free alternatives that aren’t the consistency of cardboard.
You needn’t deny yourself one of life’s simple pleasures any longer. With the recipes in Surprise! It’s Gluten Free!, you can now literally have your cake, eat it, and enjoy it, too.
Jennifer’s Journey with Gluten Sensitivity
Spoiler alert! Jennifer shares her story in the intro to her cookbook, and we don’t want to give away too much, so we’ll offer just a brief synopsis (with Jennifer’s permission, of course):
For the first 22 years of her life, Jennifer had never heard the word “gluten.” Then she started to experience severe gastrointestinal symptoms. As her symptoms worsened, she began to suffer migraines, canker sores, joint pain, nausea, diarrhea, cramping, body aches, and extreme fatigue, along with (understandably) panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. Her weight dropped from 130 pounds to 99 pounds, and she was afraid to leave her house after dinner knowing how she’d feel in the aftermath of a meal.
She bounced around between numerous doctors who ordered a variety of lab tests, none of which provided any insight into what was wrong. She began self-diagnosis through her own research before stumbling upon the words “celiac” and “gluten.” But when she discussed her condition with her doctors, they pointed out that she hadn’t tested positive for celiac disease and refused to consider the possibility of gluten sensitivity.
At one point, Jennifer was diagnosed as having ulcerative colitis and put on medications that offered some relief. She was even given steroids when she had bad flare-ups. But whenever she brought up the possibility of celiac disease or mentioned “gluten” to her doctors, they would respond by saying, “No, that’s not it.” One doctor even recommended she consume more whole wheat, telling her “it’s great for colitis.”
Jennifer became resigned to her fate until she started having children, at which point she decided to ramp up her efforts to regain her health and vitality. She didn’t want to be the “sick mom.” She wanted to be the “active, fun mom,” so she continued her quest for answers and effective treatment.
Finally, she mentioned her plight to a mentor of hers, who happened to be a nutritionist and was establishing a natural wellness center. The first thing her mentor/nutritionist told her was to stop eating gluten. That was the game-changer. Within months off gluten, Jennifer’s headaches subsided, her “heavy-feeling body” felt lighter, her foggy brain was clear, and her joint pain and GI symptoms slowly started to improve. She was back on the path to recovery, back on the path to living a rich and fulfilling life.
True to her nature, Jennifer refused to give up the foods she had grown to love. Harnessing her talent and passion for cooking, she decided to develop gluten-free versions of her favorite foods that would taste just as good, if not better, than the originals. And now, as a result of her efforts, others living with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity have access to those recipes through her new cookbook — Surprise! It’s Gluten Free!
Jennifer is not totally out of the woods just yet. Her medical issues are complex. In the this video, she talks openly about her experience as a patient here at our functional medicine practice and how it differs from her past experiences with conventional medicine practitioners.
About Jennifer’s New Cookbook
Surprise! It’s Gluten Free!, which is published by DK / Penguin Random House’s Alpha Books imprint, presents recipes for various gluten-free flour blends and breadcrumbs that can be used as replacements in any recipe calling for flour or breadcrumbs. She also includes a list of secret ingredients, including xanthan gum, Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, and Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter.
The bulk of the book is devoted to gluten-free recipes divided into the following categories:
- Pizza & pizza crusts
- Side dishes
- Pancakes, waffles, and funnel cakes
- Granolas and snack bars
- Breakfast and dessert breads
- Cakes and cupcakes
- Pies and scones
- Breads and biscuits
Jennifer Fisher — In Her Own Words
We recently sat down with Jennifer for a brief question-and-answer session. Here’s what she had to say:
Restoration Healthcare: What was your inspiration for Surprise! It’s Gluten-Free!?
Jennifer Fisher: I used to have a small baking business in San Clemente. I sold to two farmer’s markets and a few small grocery stores in town. I had to shut the business down in order to focus more on my family at the time. I was constantly being asked to either start baking again or to write down my recipes and share them. This planted the “idea” of writing a cookbook. However, my biggest inspiration has always been my boys (and any child out there who cannot eat gluten). My oldest son is gluten sensitive, and it always broke my heart whenever he was left out at parties, family gatherings, and amusement parks. So, my inspiration to continue creating gluten-free recipes definitely comes from my two boys. I want to help as many other parents as possible with gluten-sensitive children that I can.
RH: What’s your favorite dish or meal to cook and why?
Jennifer: I think my favorite thing to cook is any baked good (particularly my pecan squares, mint brownies, S’more’s brownies or pumpkin bread). No one believes me when I tell them they are gluten free. And that is my ultimate objective with any recipe I create. I don’t want it to “taste good for being gluten free.” I want everything to taste amazing, but not taste gluten free. I love seeing the surprised expressions on people when they taste one of my baked goods. OK, if you’re going to make me pick one specific dish, it would be my white chicken enchiladas. The reason is that this was my favorite dish as a child and when I went gluten free, I didn’t think I would ever be able to eat this again. So, being able to make a gluten free version that I enjoy just as much as its gluten counterpart, is very satisfying.
RH: What advice would you give to someone who is transitioning to a gluten free diet?
Jennifer: Read EVERY label! Gluten is hidden everywhere. I thought I was doing really well with my gluten-free diet my first few years, but I was still constantly getting sick. And that’s because I was still ingesting gluten from many hidden sources. You really have to check every single ingredient list and ask about every single dish when ordering in a restaurant.
Start simple. The grocery store shelves are full of gluten-free items these days. Many of them aren’t exactly healthy, but instead of making yourself crazy by trying to make everything on your own, buy some of the gluten-free items in the stores until you get the hang of gluten-free baking and cooking. My book provides a gluten-free flour blend that is a great “all purpose” flour. I always keep a batch in my refrigerator so I can bake anything at any time.
Other advice? If your family is willing, do not cook a bunch of separate meals. Cook only one gluten-free meal that the whole family will enjoy (my book is full of them). Otherwise, you will become completely overwhelmed trying to please everyone by cooking “their” meals and your gluten-free meals. Stress is a huge “no” when it comes to autoimmune diseases (which means celiac), so be kind to yourself. Start simple, and as you get the hang of it you can start being more creative and really impress your family and friends.
The meals that I make in my house are 100 percent gluten free, even when we entertain. I do not want gluten touching any of my cooking equipment and I don’t want to risk cross contamination. The only time there is ever any gluten in our house is if we are entertaining, or when purchase crackers or hamburger buns that contain gluten for my husband and one of my sons. My husband and younger son are 99 percent gluten free, even though they tolerate gluten just fine.
Thanks, Jennifer, for being such a good sport. And congratulations on the first edition of Surprise! It’s Gluten-Free!