Jules Shepard of Gluten-Free Life wasn’t trying to start a revolution. Shepard started out as an attorney with mysterious symptoms before finally receiving a celiac diagnosis in 1999. Her journey to wellness led to a company based on making gluten-free baking delicious and easy. This is why she is one of the bloggers we love.

After her diagnosis in 1999, Shepard knew she would have to do something about the quality of available gluten-free substitutes. Although gluten-free goodies have come a long way in the last 15 years, in 1999 they were dry, gritty, crumbly, and nothing like their gluten-filled counterparts. Jules got to work on a gluten-free, all-purpose flour mix for her own sanity and happiness in the kitchen. Since 2008, Jules has sold more than a million pounds of this gluten-free, all-purpose blend.

But that’s just the beginning.

For those just starting out on their gluten-free life journey, whether by choice or as a way to manage chronic pain, gluten insensitivity, or a diagnosis of celiac, it’s hard to remember what life was like 15 years ago. These days, gluten-free options abound, and gluten-free labelling is standard in grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and restaurants. Hard to believe that this gluten-free labelling wasn’t even uniform or regulated until August 2014, after a long, tireless campaign that included Shephard baking an 11-foot tall gluten-free cake to publicize the push for better labelling.

This may have been the most public of her outings, but Jules continues to work on behalf of the gluten-free community to educate and support those living a gluten-free life.

Jules has authored three books, created and runs a gluten-free baking company, and travels tens of thousands of miles annually to speak to business, community, and trade organizations and advocate for gluten-free consumers. She personally manages Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ pages, organizes an annual gluten-free cookie swap, and hosts a weekly radio show. In her spare time, she parents two children and maintains the blog that we love.

Even if you looked at nothing else, Shephard’s blog alone is a wealth of information and encouragement for gluten-free folks and their friends and families. A recent blog, “18 Tips for Gluten Free Bread Baking” demystifies the process of making the one food that many miss the most when going gluten free. Her style of writing is engaging and welcoming, which may be the reason why she receives (and responds to) sometimes hundreds of follow-up questions and comments on each blog. She freely gives her support email out in her comments so that she can personally address particular, individual concerns.

But that’s not the only part of this blog that we love.

Gluten-Free Life is part of a larger website, gfJules, that has many features beyond blogs. One of our favorites is Going Gluten-Free: 7 First Steps located under the “Why & How To Be Gluten-Free” tab. Often many people who face a gluten-free future are intimidated and focus mainly on deprivation and what they cannot have.

Jules says to step back and get started with these seven steps:

  1. Clean out and reorganize your pantry: This eliminates the gluten lurking in the corners plus starts you out with a clean, gluten-free slate.
  2. Buy a new toaster: Because your old one is filled with gluten. If you are not celiac and are focusing on eliminating gluten to cope with chronic pain, this step may not be necessary.
  3. Prohibit double-dipping: Particularly if you are sharing a kitchen with non-gluten-free people, prevent cross contamination by using squeeze bottles or instituting the no-double-dipping rule.
  4. Replace worn out pans: Pans that have scratches, nicks, and dents can trap gluten, even after washing. These pans should be replaced anyway, so start with the ones in the worst shape and gradually replace them all. Ditto for cooking utensils (spatulas, spoons, etc.)
  5. Become an avid label reader: Look carefully for hidden sources of gluten in your condiments, mixes, and other ingredients to get really good at spotting them quickly.
  6. Buy or mix a big batch of gluten-free all-purpose flour: Jules has her own popular brand, but the important point here is to make cooking and baking as easy as possible when you are starting out. A solid gluten-free all-purpose flour can help that happen.
  7. Ban gluten from your kitchen: Once you get it all out, don’t let it back in. Specify gluten-free potlucks if you have them, and don’t let anyone in the family bring in gluten. Family members who are not gluten-free can eat their gluten-filled meals out, but in your home, share the gluten-free journey.

These practical, reassuring tips are the hallmarks of this blog. Shephard’s shop of products features her all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, utensils for baking, e-books, and baking mixes (we are excited about the gluten-free graham cracker mix, as gluten-free graham crackers can be hard to find!).

Jules also offers gluten-free consulting for either individuals or companies who are looking for more help in going gluten-free. As a nationally-recognized expert in gluten-free living, this consulting could prove invaluable for everyone looking to learn how to adapt recipes and lifestyle to gluten-free.

Jules Shephard gave up her life as an attorney a long time ago, dedicating herself full-time to advocating for and supporting those looking to go gluten-free. Her unwavering commitment to education and advocacy are the main reasons why she is one of the bloggers we love. For those looking to go gluten-free as a way to heal inflammation or those who have been diagnosed or are living with someone diagnosed with celiac, Gluten-Free Life makes everything easier and more delicious.

Take a look at Jules’s blog, then tell us: which post speaks to you?

Photo courtesy of Jules Shephard

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