[This post is part of an ongoing series of interviews with (and recipes from!) cookbook authors, bloggers, women entrepreneurs and home chefs whose work I enjoy and admire. If you’ve got someone in mind you’d like me to approach for an interview, please shoot me an email at rickiATrickihellerDOTcom, or leave a comment here and let me know! And now, enjoy today’s installment!]
I’m really excited about today’s Six Degrees post because it brings together two talented cookbook authors, both of whom I’ve already waxed enthusiastic about in separate posts!
You first met Alisa on the blog quite a while ago when I reviewed her bestselling Go Dairy Free guidebook and cookbook. She’s also authored Smart School Time Recipes, an ebook that provides busy moms with ideas for breakfast, lunch and snacks for kids (and adults!)
Then, earlier this year, I baked from Hallie Klecker’s Super Healthy Cookies, and participated in the launch party for her Crazy For Kale ebook. (Hallie is also the author of The Pure Kitchen, filled with 100 whole foods recipes).
So while neither woman is exactly new to the blog, you’ve never met them quite as “up close and personal” as you will today!
I asked both women about their new collaboration, the ebook Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free: A Whole Food Starter Guide and Cookbook. While the ebook is not entirely vegan (52 of 75 recipes are), it provides a great resource for anyone whose diet is both dairy-free and gluten-free (at the same time).
From tips on how to set up your kitchen and which foods hide dairy and gluten to tips for dining out, seasonal menu plans and an all-inclusive ingredient primer, this book provides everything you’ll need to know to live well without dairy or gluten. The recipes are not overly complicated and contain everyday ingredients (and are accompanied by beautiful full-color photos). Both Alisa and Hallie are experts in their fields, so you know that what they tell you is going to be knowledgeable, in-depth, and useful.
But hey–I’ll let them tell you themselves! Then be sure to skip on down for the recipe for these incredible No Bake Chocolate Chunk (or Chip) Cookies from the book!
1. How would you each describe the kind of diet that you follow?
Alisa: I’m not big on labels, so I don’t go beyond “dairy-free” (a necessity for me) when someone asks me if I follow any type of diet. But in general, I’ve always loved vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, along with baking and cooking from scratch, so I would say that my eating patterns fall under the umbrella of a whole food diet. My husband is gluten-free, so I do eat low gluten, and have been baking and cooking gluten-free for over 6 years due to my work with free-from recipes.
Hallie: Delicious, nutrient-dense, and filled with variety! Eating gluten-free and dairy-free helps me feel my best. Most of my meals center around fresh produce, quality proteins, and healthy fats like nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil. (Sometimes I wonder how I’d live without coconut oil!) I’m an advocate of “unlabeled” diets that don’t come with too many rules and restrictions. While many would say that I eat along the lines of a Paleo diet, some of my favorite meals happen to be vegan and raw. I believe that we each find our best health when we listen to our bodies, pay attention to the signals they send us, and eat according to what works for our unique composition.
2. How did this collaboration between you two come about?
Alisa: I believe Hallie approached me about the ebook, and it seemed like a natural fit. I’ve always loved her recipes and her food approach. It all moved forward rather quickly!
Hallie: I approached Alisa with the idea to collaborate on a starter guide because in my eyes, she truly is the dairy-free lifestyle pioneer that really got the whole movement up and running! Since both of us have experience in creating allergy-friendly recipes based on whole foods, I thought we would make a great team for a project like this. Both of us agreed that the cookbook world was a bit lacking when it came to gluten-free AND dairy-free recipes that emphasized whole, natural, unrefined foods, so we took the idea and ran with it!
3. What’s your favorite aspect of cooking dairy free and gluten free?
Alisa: Discovering new foods. Dairy (cheese, sour cream, etc.) is often used to mask the taste of other ingredients in recipes. With dairy-free living I’ve enjoyed so many amazing “new to me” flavors. The same goes for gluten-free. A decade ago I never would have thought to grind nuts or oats to use in place of wheat flour – today I can’t get enough of the naturally complex flavors.
Hallie: I’m best friends with produce! When you don’t eat most grains, wheat products, butter, yogurt, cheese, or milk, the food scene can seem a bit limited right off the bat. But I quickly learned that there is so much variety when it comes to fruits and vegetables, I rarely miss the foods I can’t have. I’ve made some amazing recipes with sweet potatoes, leafy greens, seasonal berries, and more. When you learn to harness the power of plant foods, there really is no limit to what you can create..
4. What’s the biggest misconception that people have about cooking and eating with food restrictions?
Alisa: That you need to go out and load up your shopping cart with substitutes to enjoy good food. It’s hard to imagine that tasty meals can include anything that you haven’t already tried; that you can venture away from those family recipes and make something completely new with incredible results. Going back to basics and using high quality whole foods yields some of the most amazing recipes that you will ever taste.
Hallie: There are many misconceptions, but I think one of the biggest is that it’s going to be a life of limitation and boredom. To be completely honest, I rarely make the same recipe more than a few times…just because I love trying new things and find that there is so much variety when it comes to allergy-friendly food! I encourage people to focus on the foods they CAN eat instead of what they can’t. A simple shift in perspective opens up a world of possibilities.
5. What’s your process for creating recipes? (That is, do you take an existing recipe and revamp it without gluten/dairy? Or do you simply play in the kitchen?).
Alisa: Both. Everything has been done before, so it isn’t necessary to completely reinvent the wheel. I often use a recipe model for the basic formula (liquid to dry, leavener, etc.), but then a slew of customizations are tested to make it fit our diets and yield delicious results. That said, I often “play” in the kitchen with nothing but an idea. After cooking and baking for some time, you do get a feel for ratios and can often whip up a recipe without a reference.
Hallie: Process? What’s that? Although I almost always to into the kitchen with an idea of what I’m trying to make, I don’t really have a method for recipe development. It just sort of unfolds according to what I have on hand, what’s working and what’s not, etc. One thing I won’t do, though, is test a recipe until I’m blue in the face. If I’ve made two or three attempts at creating something and it still isn’t showing any signs of working out, I scrap it and move on. (I know some cookbook authors and bloggers will test something upwards of 20 times to get it perfect. Kudos to them…I don’t have the patience!)
6. Is there a conventional recipe you’ve been wanting to recreate as gluten- and dairy-free but haven’t yet?
Alisa: Hmm, I’m really not sure. My food moods change often, so I don’t have anything that I’ve been pining over for years. Right now, we have a cinnamon roll-inspired recipe on deck that will probably be challenging!
Hallie: I’ve always wanted to make a beautiful Buche De Noel cake for the holidays. I’ve yet to attempt it because I always talk myself out of it (especially in the midst of the busy holiday season), but maybe this will be the year.
7. What’s the most common question you get asked about a gluten-free, dairy-free diet?
Alisa: How can you live without cheese??!!!
Hallie: What do I do for bread? And in all honesty, I don’t do anything. I stopped eating it when I went gluten-free. All of the gluten-free store-bought loaves either tasted like cardboard, were too expensive, or were filled with junky ingredients, so I never got into the habit of buying them. And as soon as I learned just how time consuming and finicky it was to bake myself, I quit the whole bread thing altogether. (I told you I’m impatient!) When I’m craving something tender and carby, I’ll make chewy granola balls or banana quick bread. It hits the spot every time. But truthfully, after a few months without bread, my cravings just sort of disappeared. I can’t remember the last time I wanted toast or a sandwich.
Now chocolate? THAT I crave!
Thanks so much, ladies! I loved learning more about both of you and your dairy-free, gluten-free journey!
And now, I’m thrilled to share this recipe from the book. A snap to make, these No Bake Chocolate Chunk (or Chip) Cookies disappeared from our house almost as quickly!!
No Bake Chocolate Chunk (or Chip) Cookies
reprinted with permission from Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free: A Whole Food Starter Guide and Cookbook
These wholesome cookie dough-like treats are nutritious enough to call an indulgent snack, but sweet enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. [Ricki’s note: I used coconut nectar in place of the maple syrup, and even though it’s not as sweet as the syrup, I found that these cookies were more than sweet enough. Next time, I’ll reduce the sugar and replace some with stevia.]
5 ounces (140 g) raw cashews (about 1 cup/240 ml)
1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut sugar
2 Tbsp (30 ml) whole flaxseeds
1 Tbsp (15 ml) tapioca starch
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) fine sea salt
2 Tbsp (30 ml) virgin coconut oil, preferably organic, melted
2 Tbsp (30 ml) pure maple syrup [I used coconut nectar]
1/4 tsp (1 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 ml) cacao nibs, chocolate chunks, unsweetened carob chips, or your favorite dried fruit
Add the cashews, coconut sugar, flaxseeds, tapioca starch and salt to your spice grinder or food processor and blend until powdered and starting to clump. You may need to do this in two batches [Ricki’s note: it took 4 small batches in my spice grinder], depending on the size of your grinder.
Place the cashew mixture in a medium bowl, and mix in the oil, maple syrup, and vanilla until smooth. Fold in the cacao nibs or other add-ins. Use a heaping teaspoon to roll the dough into balls or form cookie shapes. If the mixture is too soft, you can chill it for 15 minutes to firm up before shaping.
Chill the no bakes in the refrigerator or freezer until firm, about 30 minutes. Pop one out when sugar cravings strike! Makes 18 cookies.
Suitable for: ACD All Stage 3and beyond, sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, vegan.
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I’m sharing this recipe at Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.
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