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My Review of Bette Hagman's The Gluten Free Gourmet

Updated on January 22, 2014
My sugar cookies made with Hagman's recipe.
My sugar cookies made with Hagman's recipe. | Source

The Gluten Free Gourmet Led the Way

I was first diagnosed with severe gluten and wheat allergies just over twelve years ago. This diagnosis was traumatic, as the doctor told me to avoid everything containing wheat, rye, oats and barley. If you look at the ingredient labels on most foods in the grocery store, you’ll find wheat and gluten are in everything from canned soups and breakfast cereals, to frozen steak fries and baking soda. You soon realize there’s not much you can eat at your local grocery store, restaurants, etc. This can be a devastating realization--that you can't eat regular foods any more, or you'll be sick.

I felt as if I’d tumbled off the edge of the world into a new universe where there was nothing I could eat. I was quite lost as to how and where to begin with my new gluten free life.

The day after my gluten allergy diagnosis, I went to our local health food store, and combed the book shelves in the cookbook section. I found several books dealing with gluten and wheat free recipes, but they looked so complicated and were priced out of my budget, so I skipped them and kept looking. Eventually I stumbled across Bette Hagman’s Living Well Without Wheat: The Gluten-Free Gourmet cookbook. This gluten free cookbook became my diet bible in the first weeks and months after the doctor told me to avoid all wheat and gluten.

"Real" vs Gluten Free Food

My Family Joke

I make several references to "real" food in this article, so I wanted to explain exactly what I'm talking about. “Real” food, in my family, means food that contains wheat and gluten. This has become a family joke over the years—the rest of my family eats “real” food, while I have yummy gluten free food (which is also real food, by the way)!

Although, these days, my family also enjoys eating gluten free dishes with me!

What's Inside The Gluten Free Gourmet?

Helpful Advice, Great Recipes and More!

The Gluten-Free Gourmet is one of the best gluten and wheat free cookbooks for beginners. It is full of advice about how to live a gluten free life, how to deal with kids who need to follow a gluten free diet, and even where to find specialized ingredients that are gluten free.

All of this information was such a help for me after diagnosis. I poured over the pages of this cookbook the first day I bought it, and even into the night. This is one of those books that you just can’t put down. It is well-written, with each piece of advice and recipe offering insights into the gluten and wheat-free existence I had fallen into.

When I was first diagnosed, gluten free foods were not as available in stores, like they are now. It was possible to find alternative flours, such as rice flour, and other ingredients. Nowadays, you can find gluten free products in most large grocery stores and online! Even so, I still prefer to cook and bake from scratch, as the food is free of preservatives and other chemicals. You also save money cooking and baking from scratch.

Chocolate Cherry bon-bon cookies
Chocolate Cherry bon-bon cookies | Source

The Gluten-Free Gourmet's Recipes

Beginners Gain Confidence

The first recipe I tried was Microwave Potato Soup. This is such an easy recipe that I was able to cook and eat the soup that first day I had the book. I chose this recipe because it was the one that didn’t call for any alternative wheat and gluten free flours. I hadn’t yet bought any ingredients to stock my gluten free pantry. I already had each listed ingredient for this paticular soup recipe. Now, this recipe is not one of the best in the cookbook, but it was a comfort to find it that first evening in my gluten-free world.

The Gluten Free Gourmet offers recipes for much more than that first soup I tried. You’ll find recipes for everything from bread to veggie dishes. After buying some wheat and gluten free ingredients, the second recipe I tried from this yummy cookbook was Muffin Mix (and More). This was a life-saver, as I love blueberry muffins, cakes, etc. This and all the other recipes in The Gluten-Free Gourmet are easy to follow, and many even include variations you can try to change the flavor or texture of each dish.

Beginners will find this cookbook helpful, as it has a wide range of recipe choices—from easy dishes to those that are more complicated. Those who are newbies to the gluten free life can start with the easy recipes, gaining confidence with each step they take. Eventually, beginners can go on to the more challenging recipes when they are more confident of this new way of cooking.

Important Tip for Newbies to Gluten and Wheat Free Cooking

Avoid Substitutions

Follow the recipe all the way through, with no substitutions. Gluten and wheat free cooking and baking are different than creating the same foods with “real” ingredients. Ingredient substitutions can change the taste and texture of a recipe; newbies may not like the finished cooked or baked foods, making it harder for them to stick with a gluten and wheat free diet.

As you can more experience and confidence with gluten free cooking and baking, you'll learn how to adapt "real" recipes to gluten free. You'll also know when to add more liquid or more flour, etc.

It takes a little time and experience to learn to cook and bake with alternative ingredients. When you get the hang of it, you won't miss "real" food any more! Your dishes will fool anyone who doesn't realize it's gluten free!

I Highly Recommend The Gluten Free Gourmet Cookbook

I highly this cookbook to all who need to avoid gluten and wheat in their diets. I would also say this is one of the best cookbooks for those who are just venturing into the gluten free world. This book has been a life-saver for me and my family. Not only did this cookbook offer good food for me, but my entire family enjoys the recipes along with me. The recipes are so good that even those who eat “real” food will enjoy what you create using this cookbook. I can’t recommend The Gluten-Free Gourmet highly enough—give it a try—you won’t be disappointed!

Further Information

You can find further information and recipes for the gluten free life at Thrifty and Gluten Free!

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© 2014 Sherry Vacik


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