The sale of gluten free products has risen by 34% in each of the five years from 1999 to 2014. While analysts predict that this will slow somewhat over time, this is a clear indication that what might have been termed a “fad” – gluten free eating – has become a stable part of the food landscape in the U.S. This may be buoyed by the fact that awareness and diagnosis of celiac disease is rising, but there are also a substantial number of people who are choosing to eat gluten free to control inflammation or to counteract gluten sensitivity.
Whatever the reason, millions of people are looking for delicious, healthy, and easy gluten free foods that they can make at home. Blogs can be a great way to find just such recipes, and one of the bloggers we love does it better than most. Shauna James Ahern is the Gluten-Free Girl, and, along with her partner Daniel, she creates some of the tastiest gluten free recipes on the internet.
Shauna’s story parallels that of many other people before they receive a celiac diagnosis.
For most of her life, Ahern felt terrible: low energy, depressed, and physically ill much of the time. Years of illness and struggle culminated in 2005 when Ahern was sleeping 18 hours a day and in pain throughout her body. Doctors couldn’t tell her what was happening, and Ahern was getting desperate for relief.
Finally, prompted by a friend, Ahern asked her gastroenterologist to test her for celiac disease. He refused, and Ahern went elsewhere for testing while also eliminating gluten from her diet immediately. When the results of the test were positive for celiac disease, Ahern returned to the original gastroenterologist to show him the results of both the test and just one week of gluten free eating: no brain fog, decreased pain, energy to make it through the day.
Key to Ahern’s story is one of the most frustrating things about celiac.
Many doctors refuse to even test for the disease, with an average diagnostic wait time of 11 years in the U.S. Ahern points out that only 7 to 8% of those with celiac disease have actually been diagnosed. As an autoimmune disorder, celiac disease impacts every part of life from the moment a person wakes in the morning until they sleep at night. Diagnosis is crucial; after receiving hers, Ahern sprang into action, and the result is Gluten-Free Girl.
Gluten-Free Girl is a great place to start on a gluten free diet. In the “Brand New To Gluten-Free” section, Ahern recaps her story, reassures the newly-diagnosed, and offers helpful tips for avoiding gluten, including an extensive list of where it may hide in common foods (e.g., soy sauce and cornflakes).
Ahern also offers an excellent compendium of resources at the bottom of this page, including:
- Symptoms of Celiac and Gluten Intolerance
- How to Shop Gluten-Free
- How to Feed Someone Gluten-Free (great for people with celiac friends and loved ones!)
Make no mistake, though: this is not necessarily a health food blog.
Ahern and her partner believe that food should be delicious, and they don’t shy away from desserts or other typically “forbidden” foods. The “Cakes” page features mainly chocolate offerings with a fruit dessert or two thrown in, and the Aherns do not avoid meat or breads.
To the contrary, a recent five-ingredient Irish soda bread is front and center on the newly-redesigned blog, and that’s just one of many gluten free breads that Ahern features. Gluten-Free Girl created an all-purpose gluten free flour mix that is used in many of the bread recipes and is available for purchase on the site.
Shauna and Daniel are co-authors of four cookbooks:
- Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back
- Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef
- Gluten-Free Girl Every Day
- Gluten-Free Girl: American Classics Reinvented
Gluten-Free Girl Every Day was named one of the best cookbooks of 2010 by the New York Times and is the winner of a James Beard Foundation cookbook award. The recipes in these cookbooks feature the same easy style and beautiful photography as the blog and are an invaluable part of a gluten free cookbook library.
The Aherns live on Vashon Island in Washington State, and Shauna has recently started offering bread-making classes locally. Her goal is to demystify the often confusing art of baking gluten free breads by offering hands-on, guided instruction that culminates in a shared meal and treats to take home.
Gluten-Free Girl also curates a selection of kitchen tools and cookbooks that can make gluten free life a little easier. Ahern is quick to point out that fancy gadgets, pots, and pans are truly unnecessary to make delicious food. The suggestions she makes in this section are suggestions only.
We love Gluten-Free Girl for the gentle reassurance the site provides along with the wealth of information.
There are recipes for every occasion, easily searchable, and quick links to more extensive resources scattered throughout each blog entry. Shauna’s writing style is easy to read and accessible, and she weaves stories of her life throughout each blog post. You get the sense that you are sitting in the kitchen with a friend, listening and watching as she whips up a big pot of soup and a loaf of crusty bread.
Whether you are newly diagnosed with celiac or have been gluten free for years, Gluten-Free Girl is an invaluable resource.
Have you found a great gluten free blog? Share in the comments!