Before I talk about why I chose to go gluten-free, let me start with this: my Dad is 100% Italian, with both parents originating from outside of Naples. This meant that growing up I was introduced to some of the best authentic, homemade Italian cooking all the way from pasta sauce and antipasti to sausage and raisin pizza (my favorite), eggplant parm and Italian cookies.
The food acted as twine, binding the family together, but what resulted in the outcome of our cooking (and eating) was warmth, laughter, pasta sauce on your shirt and endless conversation.
It was in this moment that I learned the deeper meaning of food — to connect with your heritage, with the stories of your ancestors or friends, and to acknowledge the paths that we all came from to meet right here in this very space and time.
Because of this realization, food (particularly carbs), felt like home. I could bite into crispy toast and think of my Great Grandma and Grandma on my Mom’s side or drink my tea with homemade cookies and think of my Italian ancestors.
I told Brian, “I will never not eat gluten if I have a choice for it makes me far too happy.” And that’s the honest truth.
But, the day would come that I’d have to be honest with myself — feel good in my body or continue eating what initially makes me happy but then causes me to feel like crap.
I was suffering from a slow, dull pain in my right side for over a year that would come on gradually and sometimes peak into a more aggressive discomfort. When I found myself burnt out and exhausted and a bit worried about the pain in my side, I took myself to a naturopath who had a heart to heart with me and then my blood and explained that my adrenals were burnt and my thyroid was not acting optimally. After talking about how to help restore and revitalize both areas, she suggested an elimination diet where I removed all dairy, processed sugar, and gluten for 6 weeks.
The findings blew me away. Within 2 weeks, I had energy again (with the help of Thorne adrenal support, as well!). My bloating resided, my body de-flamed and I felt like all I wanted to do was dance, dance, dance.
By week 4, I woke up one day and realized that for the first time in a year, the pain in my right side was gone. I knew it was the gluten and chose myself and my health there and then.
What my naturopath explained is that we can have intolerances (different from Celiac) to foods, which can cause less than ideal symptoms in our bodies. When we remove that food and allow our bodies to heal, we can ultimately invite that food back into our lives again in moderation and those symptoms will be mild to none.
The healing was the key. And allowing myself the space to do it was crucial.
So now the question was this: how was my carb-adoring self going to shift so that she could satiate her body and soul simultaneously?
Potatoes quickly became my new best (sp)uds ;); something about their dough-like texture when cooked and comforting tendencies replaced my yearning for a baguette or toast. Legumes entered the scene and cozied things up, as well.
To be honest, it’s been one big experiment that always ends in a new recipe or maybe a disgusting test trial and lots of laughter, endless learning and a confidence boost that we are capable of creating exactly what we want and need for ourselves.
Winter in Washington is rainy and wet and beautiful and alive and well, the perfect time and place for comfort food and fur blankets. So in honor of explorations, of our bodies, of choosing what makes us feel happy both physically and emotionally, we’ve created 2 gluten-free and dairy-free cozy winter recipes for your heart and belly.
Brian’s Washington Weather Stew:
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 1 hour, 3o mins
1 lb grass-fed Flank Steak cut into cubes
1 lb purple, red and yellow potatoes, whole
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp of dried oregano
2 carrots, cut into sticks
2 parsnips, cut into sticks
1 tbsp of coconut oil
32 oz of beef stock or buy bones at your local grocery store and make your own stock!
Bob’s Redmill 13 bean soup mix – you can also add in any kind of rice or grain you prefer!
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Melt 1 tbsp of coconut oil in a Dutch oven. Brown the cubed meat on all sides for 4 minutes a side.
Remove the meat and set aside. In the Dutch oven, saute the onions until translucent. Add the garlic, crushed red pepper and oregano. Sautee 3 minutes more then add beef sock.
Add the meat back into Dutch oven and put inside the oven for an hour.
Meanwhile, saute the parsnips and carrots in a skillet for 5 minutes and set aside.
When there’s 40 minutes left, add your potatoes to the Dutch oven and bean mix (or rice, grain, etc)
When there’s 20 minutes left, add the parsnips and carrots.
Remove Dutch oven from oven after 1 hour and enjoy!
Note: We had some gluten-free raisin bread that was awesome with this! It added the perfect amount of sweet aside the spicy.
Winter Garden Pizza with Cauliflower Crust (inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie):
Prep time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
8 oz pancetta (remove for vegetarian and vegan) option, cut into cubes
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
6 oz jar of pesto (or make your own!)
1/2 butternut squash, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1/2 medium head of cauliflower (4 cups of small florets)
2 1/2 tbsp flaxmeal or chia seeds
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup almond or oat flour OR very loosely packed 1/2 cup rolled oats or quinoa flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
In a saute pan, saute onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic for 3 minutes. Set aside in a medium mixing bowl
In a saute pan, saute peppers in olive oil for 5-6 minutes. Add to the mixing bowl.
Cook pancetta in saute pan until slightly crispy. Remove from the pan, but save the pancetta fat. Add the pancetta into the mixing bowl.
Saute the squash in the pancetta fat until slightly brown. Move to a separate bowl.
Stir your pesto into the onion, pepper and pancetta mixture.
Create your pizza crust! Head to Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe for steps, images and more.
Once the crust is cooked, remove from oven and add the onion, pepper, pancetta mix onto pizza. Cover in the butternut squash. Cook for 5 more minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.
*Note: You can also use Bob Redmill’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crust mix for late nights and empty tummies that call for a quick meal!