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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - For the many millions of sufferers of the auto-immune disorder celiac disease eating a pepperoni pizza, chocolate cake, pasta or anything containing wheat can trigger a range of unpleasant symptoms.
But the editors of "The Cooking Light Gluten-Free Cookbook," with 150 recipes ranging from spaghetti and meatballs to chicken-fried steak, show that eating wheat-free need not be bland and boring.
They have reworked their favorite recipes to make them tastily free of gluten -- a protein commonly found wheat, rye and barley that triggers the symptoms.
Contributing editor and New York City-based nutritionist Janine Whiteson spoke to Reuters about eating wheat-less without sacrifice, stocking a gluten-free kitchen and exploring exotic grains.
Q: What was the reason for doing a gluten-free cookbook?
A: "For several million people gluten is toxic. It affects the small intestine and causes inflammation. In our country right now one out of 100 people have celiac disease or other wheat intolerances. It's a big problem."
Q: How did Cooking Light arrive at these recipes?
A: "These are 150 of our tried and tested recipes. We just changed them with a gluten-free pantry. We have diner-style onion rings. We have chicken-fried steak. We have Greek risotto and Indian dishes. You cannot taste the difference in these recipes compared to our regular recipes.
Q: What's the biggest problem encountered in eliminating wheat from a diet?
A: "There's wheat in so many things, from salad dressings to cough syrup, even the adhesives in envelopes."
Q: Is there any nutritional downside to not eating wheat?
A: "Not at all. A lot of the grains are actually higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals than wheat. Of course you do have to get in your fruit and vegetables. I always say shop the perimeters of the aisles (of the supermarket). That's where the fresh fruits, vegetables and the dairy products are.
Q: What are the essentials of a gluten-free pantry?
A: "The spices, the condiments, baking essentials like corn starch, corn-meal, gluten-free flour blends and baking power. Beans are an important staple in the gluten-free pantry, as are legumes, tofu, and dairy products. Luckily most supermarkets have a gluten-free aisle, so shop for the essentials there."
Q: What are some grains used in place of wheat?
A: "Quinoa is extremely high in fiber and protein and minerals and vitamins. We use buckwheat, which is not a wheat but a grain, and millet. Amaranth, an ancient grain from Mexico, is high in fiber and protein. Teff, a tiny grain from Africa, has a ton of vitamins and minerals."
Q: Is it more complicated to cook with these unfamiliar ingredients?
A: "No, but you really have to be careful how long you cook a rice pasta, or quinoa pasta. Gluten-free pastas get sticky or mushy if overcooked. You have to read the directions. You have to cook al dente. We've included all of that in the cookbook."
Portobello and Black Bean Quesadillas
Sauteed Portobello mushrooms are delicious in ragouts; as a topping for polenta or pizza; or as a filling for fajitas, tacos, or quesadillas. The Portobello mushroom stands up to the robust flavors in these quesadillas, all the while preserving its own sturdy texture.
4 (8-inch) gluten-free tortillas
Butter-flavored cooking spray
2 (4 1/2 inch) Portobello caps, chopped
2 tablespoons light balsamic vinaigrette (check for gluten)
1 cup canned no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (2-ounce) jar diced pimiento, drained
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
Fresh salsa (optional) (Check for Gluten)
Reduced-fat sour cream (optional)
1. Stack tortillas; microwave at HIGH 1 minute. Leave in microwave to keep warm while preparing filling.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add mushrooms; saute 2 minutes or until tender. Add vinaigrette, beans, and pimiento; cook 1 to 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring constantly. Mash bean mixture slightly with a potato masher.
3. Spoon about 1/3 cup bean mixture onto each tortilla. Sprinkle evenly with cheese and onions. Fold tortillas in half.
4. Wipe skillet with paper towels; heat over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Place 2 quesadillas in pan; cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden and cheese melts. Repeat procedure with remaining 2 quesadillas. Cut each quesadilla into 3 wedges. Serve immediately with salsa and sour cream, if desired.