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Celebrating Food

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The Advocate

Celebrating Food : 121 Gluten-Free Recipes for a Healthier You by Susan Gauen

Reviewed by John Perrodin

"For beginning cooks, Celebrating Food may hit the spot. Readers who had hoped to try non-wheat options had better keep looking."

According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network more than 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies. Wheat intolerance ranks high among allergens that trouble unsuspecting eaters.

For those who have discovered that gluten upsets their stomach or who simply want to avoid wheat in their diet, Susan Gauen’s Celebrating Food includes 121 gluten-free recipes. One caveat, the chef’s secret to success in using many of these recipes involves creating stand-alone “pancake and baking” or the “pizza crust and yeast bread” mixes.

Each mix includes ingredients like white (or brown) rice flour, rice bran, sorghum flour, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum. While some of these items may be available at your local health food outlet, Gauen also provides an Appendix listing mail-order options. Once you’ve created these mixes (and found a large place in your pantry to store them) you may begin baking. Without them, your recipe choices are limited to sweets, sauces, soups, salads, and side dishes.

The cook using this book will also need to seek out coconut oil, brown rice syrup, gluten-free oatmeal, and other products that aren’t found in the typical kitchen. The purchaser should take note that only certain allergies are acknowledged. Eggs, dairy products, and nuts are often called for as well and each can be a source of serious allergic reactions. Gauen does suggest using milk and egg alternatives in those instances, but in all honesty it seems that she’s trying to cover too much ground in one small (151-page) paperback book. And those with diabetic conditions will, by necessity, shy away from the sugar-filled treats.

Another warning: Oil and Vinegar Dressing is one of the 120-plus “gluten-free” recipes. I expected this cookbook to provide options to using wheat, not simply familiar food choices that had no wheat in them to begin with!

The recipe I tried (and enjoyed) was the classic “No-Bake Cookies” composed of sugar, cocoa, milk, oil, and a dash of salt. Due to the requirement (noted above) of creating two “ready-mixes” I was unable to sample the baked “bread substitute” wheat- and gluten-free options that most interested me about the book.

From an ease-of-use standpoint, Celebrating Food was printed quite small for a cookbook. The tight, narrow binding made it impossible to crack open the book and get it to stay put on the countertop. Also, many of the pictures are tiny. It’s hard to see the texture clearly when the (often too-shiny) image is only a 2¼ inch square.

Still, Celebrating Food could fit a niche for the patient, novice cook. Among categories included (beside breads made with mixes) are beverages, desserts, and main dishes. Although Gauen has served with YWAM for more than three decades few of the recipes reflect an international flavor. Most entrees are basic, stick-to-the-ribs choices like barbeque chicken, macaroni and cheese, roast chicken, spaghetti, tuna casserole, and tacos.

For beginning cooks, Celebrating Food may hit the spot. Readers who had hoped to try non-wheat options had better keep looking.

John PerrodinJohn Perrodin is the Senior Editor for the Christian Writers Guild. He co-authored the Renegade Spirit Trilogy with Jerry B. Jenkins. The latest release in that series is Seclusion Point (Thomas Nelson). His book, Simple Little Words: What You Say Can Change a Life, written with Michelle Cox, releases in April 2008 from David C. Cook. Please visit www.simplelittlewords.com to find out more about the book, and visit John's website www.johnperrodin.com to find out more about his writing.