Practically Normal

Gluten Free Life

My Life Goal Is To Make Gluten Free Food Taste Normal.

Some people eat to live. I live to eat. So it's really important to me that my food tastes good and that I'm not limited on what I can eat. If you also care what your food tastes like, and I assume you do, you want it to taste like the foods you are familiar with. Here at Practically Normal Gluten Free Life, my main goal is to help you eat as normally as possible. Sometimes that means sticking to naturally gluten free foods, sometimes it means finding the most normal commercially available gluten free products, and sometimes it means figuring out how to recreate the flavors and textures that you miss in an old favorite.

Gluten free food often has a bad reputation for being gritty, slimy or having some other odd texture and flavor. I will show you how to make gluten free foods that are usually as good or better than the glutenous versions. A lot of my recipes have actually surprised me by being better than the originals. Gluten free yeast breads are the exceptions. I have not found a pre made product or recipe that is as good as wheat bread, although I have tried some that were almost as good and some that were different but still delicious. And of course I think my recipe is the closest I've tasted to being like glutenous yeast bread.

If you want to be able to make food that your gluten eating friends and family will love, I can help you. When I started eating gluten free, I ate a lot of weird foods. Through trial and error, I have discovered which brands taste best and how to make gluten free versions of all my beloved glutenous foods. Now my family thinks "gluten free" means "extra good." And they're jealous if I only have the time or money to make the gluten free version for myself.

Who Am I?

My name is Naomi Aagard.

I have a family of 7 picky eaters: me, my husband and 5 children, ranging from 2 to 16 years old. We won't be satisfied with subpar food. For the first 27 years of my life, I happily ate everything glutenous. I loved food. I've read cookbooks since I was old enough to pick them up. I took a correspondence cooking course during my high school years. After that, I started cooking regularly in my parents’ home, changing recipes to suit my tastes. I went on to get married and enjoyed the freedom of choosing my ingredients and broadening my repertoire of recipes.

Why I Eat Gluten Free

In 2007, I started having health problems that the doctors couldn't find causes for, going steadily downhill. Then I had my wisdom teeth removed and was eating soft or blended foods. For about a week I didn't eat any gluten, since blended bread didn't appeal to me at all. The first thing I ate, when I could have solids again, was cheese tortellini with Alfredo sauce. Before I had even finished eating it, my guts were cramping and I had to run to the bathroom. For the next 2 weeks, I was the sickest I'd ever been and lost about 5 lbs. I assumed at first that I had food poisoning or a stomach bug. But after those 2 weeks, I decided to go to a doctor. Tests showed that my blood sugars were in diabetic ranges, but they weren't sure what was wrong with my guts.

After a few months of misery, dropping to 87 pounds and trying ineffective drugs and a few inconclusive elimination diets, my mom suggested that I try cutting out gluten, since my symptoms were similar to those of her friend who has celiac disease. Within a few days, my symptoms started to improve. They didn't go completely away, as I have other health problems, but I was able to gain weight and get out of bed. I went to the doctor and asked for testing, but he didn't think it was very likely that there was a correlation and that the test was worth doing. So, I've never been tested to know for sure what is causing my gluten problems, and every time I've eaten gluten to try to get tested, I got really sick again and couldn't eat it long enough to get tests. I'm guessing I have an allergy, since my reaction is pretty instant and is topical, inhaled and internal.

Starting the Diet

Anyhow, I started by buying premade items. Everything I bought was horrible. Then I tried mixes. They were slightly better, but still terrible. Then I bought a gluten free cookbook. The recipes I tried were a little weird, but the flavor was better than anything I had tried so far. After a while I got tired of the gummy rubberiness, so, I bought another cookbook. This one had more crumbly, dense items. At this point I figured there must be a way to balance the crumbly with the gummy. I took graph paper and compared the recipes in the books with recipes in my gluten cookbooks. I started making foods that I would be ok eating long term. After a lot of adjustments, I started making things that my family preferred over the original. Up until this point, I had been making two meals and deserts, one for me and one for my family.

The Turning Point

I think the big turning point in the way I did things was when I made 2 cakes for my husband’s birthday, and he was so disappointed that I had made him a gluten cake instead of a gluten free one. After that, I started looking for ways to make the things we normally ate in gluten free versions that the family would like. I've had a few failures, but for the most part it's been an overwhelming success. Now, we eat most meals gluten free. Every Monday I bake gluten free baked goods and freeze them. The gluten eaters have glutenous bread, cereal and treats, and if I have leftovers, then I might make them a gluten meal. It used to be that my husband would eat somewhere else if I made gluten free foods, now he eats it happily and I have to fight him for the leftovers.

Finally Eating Normal

Almost anything I miss, I can make a gluten free version of. If I'm going to a birthday party, I pull a cupcake out of the freezer. Everyone is having pizza? Pull it out of the freezer. Want a sandwich? Thaw the bread and voila. Pie? Frozen slices are in the freezer. Potluck? Make a gluten free entrée or side. Restaurants are getting easier as there becomes more awareness. My life is getting far more normal. A couple of my kids just tested positive for other allergies though, and now I get to figure out how to make practically normal allergy foods, so that their lives can stay normal too. Just because you have allergies, doesn't mean you can't eat normally. Join me and see how I make foods that are as good as or better than the gluten you remember.