Copyright 2005 Clan Thompson. This interview first appeared in the November, 2005 issue of the Clan ThompsonTM Celiac Newsletter and is reprinted here with their permission. To learn more about celiac disease, visit their CeliacSite at www.clanthompson.com.

GRAIN FREE GOURMET: An Interview with Cookbook Authors Jenny Lass and Jodi Bager
(Editor's Note: Grain Free Gourmet is a new cookbook that uses almond flour as a grain substitute for baked goods. Since one of the celiacs in our family has to eliminate corn, rice, and all other grains from his diet, as well as the "traditional" ones, we wanted to find out more about cooking without grains.)

CLAN THOMPSON: Why did you decide to write this cookbook?
GRAIN FREE GOURMET: We wrote Grain-Free Gourmet: Delicious Recipes for Healthy Living because we noticed that there was a need for it. People with limited food choices were often stuck with complicated recipes full of hard-to-find ingredients that in the end didn’t taste authentic. Grain-Free Gourmet introduces a simple cooking method that uses regular, everyday ingredients in new ways to help people with limited food choices (such as celiacs!) rediscover the joy of eating. Now you don’t have to look for many different kinds of flour and unusual binding ingredients – we’ve kept it really easy and delicious.

CLAN THOMPSON: Do you have celiac disease?
GRAIN FREE GOURMET: Grain-Free Gourmet co-author Jenny Lass is celiac and has had this diagnosis for four years. Co-author Jodi Bager had ulcerative colitis, but is now in remission thanks to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

CLAN THOMPSON: What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?
GRAIN FREE GOURMET: The recipes in Grain-Free Gourmet are based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which was invented over 50 years ago by a physician who realized that not all celiacs responded to the gluten-free diet (like Grain-Free Gourmet co-author Jenny Lass). The SCD makes food easier to digest by eliminating all complex carbohydrates and disaccharides – basically, if you’re eating a carb, it has to be a simple one, such as honey, fruit or vegetables. So there are no refined sugars, no starches (such as potatoes and yams) and no grains. There are also lots of helpful techniques in the SCD for eating low-lactose dairy. There is no soy on the SCD because it’s too hard to digest.

CLAN THOMPSON: If your recipes are refined-sugar-free, does that mean there aren’t any desserts in your cookbook?
GRAIN FREE GOURMET: Grain-Free Gourmet has tons of desserts! We use honey to sweeten instead of refined sugars. We have an extensive desserts section featuring recipes such as nutty caramels, lactose-free cappuccino ice cream, lemon meringue pie, and butter-pecan cookies. Honey is not only more nutritious than sugar, but you need less of it to sweeten. Honey also has antibacterial properties and helps to increase blood antioxidants, which are responsible for lowering the “bad” cholesterol (LDL). You can learn more about honey on our Web site www.grainfreegourmet.com.

CLAN THOMPSON: What about breads and cakes?
GRAIN FREE GOURMET: We have almost 30 baked-goods in Grain-Free Gourmet – bread, pie, cake, cookies, pizza, you name it and we’ve got it. Our secret weapon is almond flour, or ground blanched almonds. Instead of having to mix many different kinds of flours together to mimic the taste and texture of wheat flour baked goods, all you need is delicious, nutritious almond flour. The baking techniques in Grain-Free Gourmet are much simpler than in regular celiac recipes. For example, compare the list of ingredients in our cranberry muffins to your regular list of ingredients for muffins: cranberries, honey, eggs, almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon. Everything is a quick bread in Grain-Free Gourmet – there is no resting or rising. Just put your ingredients in a bowl and mix. We also get creative with pasta substitutes: spaghetti squash, eggs, squid and Enoki mushrooms.

CLAN THOMPSON: Isn’t almond flour fattening and high in cholesterol?
GRAIN FREE GOURMET: Let’s address the cholesterol issue first. Not only do almonds have no cholesterol, but they have also been clinically proven to lower blood cholesterol levels as well as statins (a cholesterol-lowering drug) and better than whole wheat. Three ounces of almonds (about 3/4 cup) also have 25% of your daily recommended calcium intake, 36% of your daily fibre intake and 105% of your daily vitamin E intake. Almonds do have quite a bit of fat in them, but 85% of it is the “good” fat. But the fat in almonds works to your advantage – almonds keep you fuller longer so you don’t feel hungry and eat unhealthy snacks. One study found that obese people who were on a calorie-reduced, almond-enriched diet lost significantly more weight, body fat and inches around the waist than obese people who were on a calorie-reduced, high-complex-carb diet. Almonds are like any other food – as long as you eat normal portions of them, you won’t gain weight. You can learn more about almonds and how to buy them on our Web site.

CLAN THOMPSON: What’s your background in nutrition?
GRAIN FREE GOURMET: Although we don’t have any formal nutrition training, Jenny is a medical writer and Jodi runs an almond-flour baked goods company called J. Gourmet (www.jgourmet.ca). However, Grain-Free Gourmet is endorsed by registered dietitian Fiona Press who specializes in digestive health and is affiliated with St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada.

CLAN THOMPSON: How/where can people buy your book?
GRAIN FREE GOURMET: Grain-Free Gourmet is available in book stores across the United States and Canada. It is also available online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. For more purchasing information, visit our site www.grainfreegourmet.com.