This may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but yesterday I baked a wonderful batch of lemon cookies from scratch! And they are delicious. So what you say?
I haven't really shared my gluten free story on this blog. I've mentioned a couple of times that I am eating gluten free, but this is supposed to be a crafty blog. And I like to keep things light and cheerful. However, I realize now that this is a big part of who I am & I just need to throw it out there. Do with it what you want! Maybe it will enlighten someone else. What made me suddenly want to share? Well, I have been reading Shauna James Ahern's blog, gluten-free girl and the chef, for a while now. Last weekend I picked up her book and began to read. I couldn't put it down! Shauna's story so resonated with me.... wow! I thought. She gets me!
I'll give you the abbreviated version of my personal story. Mine has been a lifetime of frustration... constant upset stomachs and no answers. I remember running to the bathroom in the middle of dinner as a child. Who digests their food that fast? I knew it wasn't right. Certain life events caused major stomach flare ups. A trip to South America when I was 19. The birth of each of my children a decade or so later. Finally, when I had a hysterectomy three years ago, my body spun out of control. I knew I needed to find answers fast.
In November of 2008, finally, my new GI doctor gave me the answer I had been seeking. "you have celiac disease" he said. "You have to eliminate gluten from your diet entirely & you will heal!" I have what? I have to eliminate what? I was clueless. Thank goodness for the internet (it really can be a wonderful tool). I quickly learned that my body is unable to process gluten (basically wheat, barley, rye & a few other grains). Over the years, gluten had destroyed the villi in my intestines. Many of my vitamin levels were low. But now I had a plan!
Gluten hides in many prepared foods (salad dressings, soy sauce, cream soups & sauces). My answer at first was to eat plain chicken breasts, rice & plain vegetables every night. Let me tell you, I got tired of that very quickly! I have never been much of a cook (my family will attest to that!) but in the last year & a half I have begun experimenting, buying gluten free cookbooks & recreating their dishes. Only recently have I begun making some of my old favorites in a new way.... trying out different combinations of gluten free flour, using more fresh ingredients, etc.
Shauna's book & blog have given me a new love for food! I am so excited to explore even more. Yesterday I made her Lemon Olive Oil cookies. It took a special trip to the grocery store to find all of the ingredients I needed (actually could not find "sweet rice flour" & had to substitute regular rice flour, also could not find lemon olive oil). As I mixed up the dough, it smelled so good I could not wait to taste the actual cookies! I licked raw dough off my fingers (something I have not done in a year & a half!). Turned the page of the book and the recipe said "chill dough for at least 2 hours before baking". WHAT??? I wanted to bake them NOW & eat them NOW! I dutifully covered the bowl with plastic wrap & slid it into the fridge. Sigh....
Let me tell you, it was worth the wait! The finished cookies are cake like, light & delicious. I must make my cookies small because I got nearly three dozen out of the dough. Her recipe says it makes 15. Hmmm. Next time mine will be bigger!
By the way.... within a week of living gluten free I began to feel better than I have ever felt in my life. Over time my nutrition levels have improved & last time I had blood work done, I was within the normal range for everything except vitamin D. Still working on that one! So that's my story. Next time you hear me talk about gluten free foods, you will know why I eat them.
Oh, & if you want to taste those yummy cookies you better get over here fast. They are not going to be here long!