Anyone who knows me (or reads this blog) knows I am not the biggest supporter of the gluten-free fad. In fact, I am actively and vocally pro-gluten. Not that I am insensitive towards those with special dietary needs, which is why I chatted recently with Rella Kaplowitz from Chosen Bites to better understand why and how one adjusts to such a diet. Rella’s creations always look delicious, even despite the lack of gluten. So stay tuned for her gluten-free butternut squash mac ‘n cheese!
The short answer is, although I tested negative for celiac disease, gluten makes me really sick. I’ve had stomach problems my whole life, and up until about 5 years ago I figured it was just a way of life. Then a friend of mine mentioned trying a gluten-free diet, and within 6 months I was living “intestinal distress” free! I had also been severely lactose intolerant (like having to take 6 Lactaid pills to eat a scoop of ice cream intolerant) since I was about 15, and about 2 years after being gluten-free I was able to introduce dairy back into my diet. I’ve been eating loads of dairy ever since to make up for lost time.
What do you think about the fact that gluten-free is now sort of trendy?
There are pros and cons to the gluten-free fad. On one hand, being gluten-free is so much easier now than it was 5 years ago. The market is inundated with gluten-free products, restaurants are catering to gluten-free diets. On the other hand, many people fail to understand the difference between people who are gluten-free by necessity (i.e. gluten makes them severely ill) and people who are gluten-free because it’s a lifestyle choice. When I ingest gluten, I can feel the aftereffects for a few hours or several days depending on how much gets into my system. It’s not a joke—but some people think being gluten-intolerant is fake and aren’t as careful as they should be (like restaurants who serve gluten-free pasta but boil it in the same water as gluten-full pasta).
Is there something you have tried to make gluten-free but just didn’t work?
I can’t seem to recreate a real, NY-style bagel that’s gluten-free. There is something about the crispy outside, chewy inside that just isn’t replicable. Which is very sad considering that is the ONE thing I truly miss since cutting gluten out of my diet. I did make a great pretzel roll recipe. And while it’s not a bagel, I love this coconut blueberry granola recipe as a satisfying breakfast.
Do you have resources you would recommend to others keeping a gluten-free diet?
There are so many good resources for people who maintain a gluten-free diet.
- The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has a wealth of information about celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and a gluten-free resource directory with tons of products and services to help support a gluten-free diet.
- Gluten-Free Goddess is very kosher friendly since most of the recipes are vegan or vegetarian in addition to being gluten-free.
- Gluten-Free Girl is an excellent resource for gluten-free baking.
- Gluten-free products can be expensive, so I order all of mine online (especially gluten-free flours) mostly through Vitacost. Most grocery stores will have what you need but it could cost as much as 50% more.
The one thing I will add is beware of websites offering medical advice. There is a lot of bad advice out there, and you should ALWAYS consult with a doctor before doing anything that might have a health impact.
What’s the best thing to happen as a result of baking and blogging for you?
I love being in the kitchen—at the end of a long day, I find it cathartic to pull out a bunch of ingredients and create something delicious. People laugh when I tell them I de-stress after work by making dinner or baking a batch of cookies, but it’s true! And once I started blogging, it allowed me to share my gift of cooking and baking with others. There is also an unbelievably warm community of food bloggers, especially food allergy focused bloggers.
So…you sell gluten-free, kosher baked goods. What kinds of products do you offer?
You can see everything I offer on my website. I can customize most of my items—they aren’t just gluten-free, they can also be free of other allergens like dairy, soy, corn, tree nuts, and peanuts. Right now I’m primarily selling in the DC area, although I ship orders pretty regularly too.
What’s next on the horizon for Rella and Chosen Bites?
I would love to grow Chosen Bites in to a bigger business selling delicious baked goods that make people forget they have food allergies. However, it’s still a hobby right now—I have a day job that takes up a lot of my time too! So I guess the answer is, I don’t know what’s on the horizon but I’m certainly open to riding things out to see where they lead.