Alicia Chappell of Jacksonville, Ill., was diagnosed with celiac disease two weeks before her 16th birthday. It meant she couldn’t eat foods that contain gluten, a protein found primarily in wheat, barley, rye and some types of oats.

Alicia Chappell of Jacksonville, Ill., was diagnosed with celiac disease two weeks before her 16th birthday. It meant she couldn’t eat foods that contain gluten, a protein found primarily in wheat, barley, rye and some types of oats.


“When I first found out, I couldn’t find gluten-free foods anywhere. I went to a dietitian at a hospital, and she was not well versed on the subject,” she said.


It took Chappell quite a while to educate herself about gluten-free eating. Now, eight years later, information and gluten-free products are much easier to come by.


One way Chappell modified her diet was to convert recipes for her favorite foods, with assistance from her mother, Crystal Chappell.


“Mom and I took recipes I couldn’t have and started modifying them. It was pretty gross at first. You had to figure out how ingredients reacted with each other. That’s how we learned to cook and bake,” said Chappell.


Cooking gluten-free


Chef Robert Landolphi is a culinary arts instructor and culinary operations manager at the University of Connecticut. His wife and their 4-year-old son both are both gluten-intolerant.


The chef has become an expert at gluten-free cooking and is the author of two books on the subject: “Gluten Free Every Day Cookbook” and “Quick-Fix Gluten Free.”


“I live in a gluten-free house,” he said.


Like Chappell, his knowledge came from trial and error over many years; it wasn’t taught in culinary school.


“Pretty much, you can convert almost anything to a gluten-free version. But it might have a slightly different flavor or texture,” he said.


There is no single type of flour that can be substituted for wheat flour.


“There are all-purpose gluten-free flours on the market. Any one of them might make a good biscuit, but not a good piecrust,” Landolphi said. He suggests blending flour at home.


Basic lessons


There are two types of gluten-free flours: Whole-grain (such as sorghum, brown rice, amaranth, millet, quinoa, oats) and those with a starchy carbohydrate base (tapioca starch, white rice, potato, cornstarch).


Landolphi suggests blending 2/3 cup of a whole-grain flour with 1/3 cup of a lighter, starchier flour.


“If you don’t do that, your baked goods will be dry,” he said.


Other gluten-free cooking tips from the chef:


-- Add xanthan gum to the batter of muffins. It provides structure and body.


-- If flour seems coarse and gritty, grind it a second time in a food processor and then sift to incorporate air and remove grit.


-- Thicken stews, soups and sauces with cooked beans that have been put through a blender.


-- Beat a couple of egg whites, and fold them into waffle batter for more volume and a lighter texture.


-- Make batters thinner than usual by adding extra water or fruit juice. A moister product will result.


-- Coat pork, poultry or fish in gluten-free cornflakes, Corn Chex or Rice Chex that have been pulverized in a food processor.


Landolphi urges gluten-conscious cooks to create layers of flavor when converting recipes. Add applesauce, carrots, walnuts, coconut or raisins to spiced muffins, for example. Knead roasted garlic cloves and fresh rosemary into baguette dough. When making other baked goods, consider adding apple juice, orange juice, flavored yogurt, nuts, berries, bananas, honey, molasses, fresh herbs or spices.


Other ways to boost flavor: roasting garlic, zesting citrus fruits, caramelizing onions and toasting seeds, nuts and coconut.


Find like-minded people


Chappell said she wasted a lot of money buying products at a health-food store when she first started cooking without gluten.


“Talk to other people, join a celiac support group or a Facebook group. Get opinions of others to find good products and to see what works,” she advised. She likes Gluten Freeville (http://glutenfreeville.com and https://www.facebook.com/glutenfreeville).


“If you’re going out to eat, go on the Internet, and see if the restaurant has a gluten-free menu, not just an allergy listing. If they have that, they’ll be well-versed about cross contamination,” she said.


Chappell has learned to cook almost everything she likes, but she still craves a few restaurant items she can’t have.


“But when you think about how sick you’d be if you ate them, after a while, you get over it,” said Chappell.


How common is gluten intolerance?


-- Between 15 million and 45 million people are estimated to have a gluten intolerance.


-- More than 3 million people (1 in 133) are believed to have celiac disease, although not all have been diagnosed.


-- Gluten-free products represent a $2.6-billion industry, growing by 20 percent a year.


-- Restaurants increasingly are offering gluten-free menus. They include Outback Steakhouse, Lone Star Steakhouse, Applebee’s and Chili’s.


-- Source: Beth Hillson, president, American Celiac Disease Alliance


Sweet Cheese Crepes with Caramelized Peaches and Granola


From “Quick-Fix Gluten Free” by Robert Landolphi


½ cup white rice flour


¼ cup tapioca flour


¼ cup cornstarch


½ teaspoon xanthan gum


2 teaspoons granulated sugar


½ teaspoon salt


1 ½ cups milk


6 tablespoons water


3 eggs


4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, 2 tablespoons melted


1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Sweet Cheese Filling (recipe follows)


Peach Topping (recipe follows)


½ cup “Gone Completely Nuts” Granola (recipe follows)


In small bowl, sift together white rice flour, tapioca flour, cornstarch, xanthan gum, granulated sugar and salt.


In blender, combine milk, water, eggs, melted butter and vanilla. Blend 10 seconds. Add flour mixture and blend another 30 to 40 seconds, until it forms a smooth batter.


Heat nonstick pan over medium heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray, pour about 2 tablespoons of batter in the center, and swirl pan in a circular motion so the batter forms a thin disk. Cook 50 to 60 seconds, then use a spatula to flip disk and cook another 10 to 15 seconds. Place disk on a sheet of waxed paper to cool and continue making crepes with remaining batter, stacking them between sheets of waxed paper.


When all the crepes have cooled, spread 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of the cheese filling on half of a crepe. Fold crepe in half once and then in half a second time, forming a triangular envelope. Place on platter and continue to fill the rest of the crepes.


Melt 1 tablespoon of remaining butter in large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add half the crepes and cook 1 to 2 minutes, until light golden brown. Flip and cook another minute. Place cooked crepes on a platter and cook remaining crepes in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.


To serve, divide crepes among 4 to 6 plates and top each serving with a spoonful of peach topping and a sprinkle of granola.


Chef’s note: To save time, cook the unfilled crepes in advance and store them stacked between layers of waxed paper in resealable plastic bags. They can be refrigerated 2 to 3 days or frozen for 3 to 4 weeks.


Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Sweet Cheese Filling


1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature


2 tablespoons brown sugar


½ teaspoon ground cinnamon


½ teaspoon ground nutmeg


Using electric mixer with a paddle, beat together the cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until smooth and creamy.


Peach Topping


1 tablespoon butter


1 pound frozen sliced peaches, thawed and slices cut in half


2 tablespoons brown sugar


1⁄8 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add peaches, brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally, until peaches are softened and their juices are released, about 5 minutes.


“Gone Completely Nuts” Granola


¼ cup maple syrup


2 tablespoons honey


1 tablespoon vegetable oil


3 cups gluten-free oats


½ cup chopped walnuts


½ cup chopped pecans


½ cup chopped almonds


½ cup lightly packed shredded sweetened coconut


¼ cup packed brown sugar


½ teaspoon salt


1 cup dried cranberries or cherries


½ cup raisins (optional)


Preheat oven to 250 degrees and grease a baking sheet.


In small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, honey and vegetable oil. In medium mixing bowl, combine oats, walnuts, pecans, almonds, coconut, brown sugar and salt. Add syrup mixture to  oat mixture and, using an electric mixer, mix until thoroughly blended.


Spread out evenly on baking pan and bake 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely on the pan and then mix in the dried cranberries and raisins. Store in airtight container or resealable plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.


Makes 1 1/2 pounds.


Kathryn Rem can be reached at 788-1520 or kathryn.rem@sj-r.com.