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Wheat- and dairy-free food needn’t taste like cardboard

By: Susie Iventosch, Special to Home & Garden
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Have you ever tried a wheat-free, dairy-free recipe only to discover it tastes like a cardboard copy of real food, lacking the key attributes of flavor and texture? If so, Lauren Hoover has just the cookbook for you. “No Wheat No Dairy No Problem” is a revolutionary cookbook filled with 150 tested recipes that, in addition to being wheat and dairy-free, use only unrefined sugars, so diabetics can enjoy them, too. “‘No Wheat No Dairy No Problem’ aims to help everyone with food sensitivities or allergies, diabetes and autism,” Hoover said. “However, it is for anyone who desires to eat and cook healthy. It is also great for people who need to eat heart healthy diets, since the main flour used is oat flour.”  Hoover, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy, wrote this book so people with limited diets and food issues won’t unnecessarily be deprived of the recipes and foods they’ve grown to love — like ice cream! “I suffered stomach aches and congestion my whole life, until I was finally diagnosed with a dairy allergy at the age of 35,” she said. “As a pastry chef, I was overexposed to wheat, which resulted in a wheat allergy, too.” Prior to her diagnosis, Hoover had grown weary of her daily discomfort and thought, “it can’t be normal to feel like this all the time.” So she made a concerted effort to find out what was wrong with her. Her research pointed to a possible wheat allergy. Later, an internist who ordered blood work revealed a dairy allergy. Within six weeks of cutting out dairy and wheat, Hoover had a new lease on life. “The stomach aches and congestion went away and I had more energy than ever before,” she explained. “But the foods I was able to eat on my new regime often tasted like cardboard. So I started converting old favorites into new edibles for me.” Hoover also says that many children who actually have wheat allergies have been misdiagnosed with autism. “The autism community is making great strides with this kind of diet,” she said. “There have been cases where a child’s autism symptoms have vanished after being on a wheat-free, dairy-free diet.” With a new-found mission to help as many people in the world as possible, this classically-trained chef who honed her culinary skills in many famous kitchens (La Folie, Hyatt and Marriott resorts, Fairmont Hotel and Bally’s Hotel and Casino to name a few) decided to write a cookbook at the urging of her good friends. In the book, Hoover offers tips for what to look for on labels to determine dairy and wheat content, helpful hints about safety and sanitation, and resources for where to find more information about food allergies and how to combat them. “Lauren Hoover applied her expertise and own experience to create this cookbook filled with tantalizing recipes,” said Alisa Fleming of GoDairyFree.org. “Her use of natural ingredients and (her) unwillingness to sacrifice an ounce of flavor has resulted in this delicious compilation of Southern comfort food, elegant entertaining and seductive desserts that will make you forget what isn’t inside!” This recipe for Summer Fruit Crisp is timely with all of the beautiful ripe stone fruits at the markets. A trip to the Auburn Farmers’ Market over the weekend yielded plenty of beautifully ripe peaches, plums and nectarines. ---------- Summer Fruit Crisp From “No Wheat No Dairy No Problem.” Yields: 1 (9x12) pan or 2-quart round soufflé dish. Serves 6-10 people For Filling: 3 pounds of stone fruit (nectarines, peaches, apricots, plums), 1 inch slices ½ cup agave nectar 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract zest and juice of 1 lemon 1 teaspoon tapioca starch or 2 tablespoons oat or barley flour for Topping: 1 cup oat or barley flour, sifted ½ cup date sugar or maple sugar or sucanat (I substituted organic turbinado raw cane sugar) 1 stick vegan Earth Balance, cold or frozen and diced zest of one lemon 1 teaspoon vanilla powder, optional ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon ½ cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds) ½ cup old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash lemons and fruit with vegetable wash. Do you know how many people have handled that fruit? Trust me, you don’t want to know … just wash it and rinse well with cold water! Slice fruit and put in a large bowl and add the rest of the filling ingredients to the fruit, stir well. Place fruit mixture into a 9x12 glass baking dish or a 2-quart round soufflé dish or something equivalent — it can be a different shape, but the same size. Set fruit aside. For the topping, place all ingredients into a food processor with the “S” blade (Sabatier chopping blade) and pulse until it is crumbly and the size of cherries. This can also be done with a pastry cutter in a bowl. Pour evenly over fruit and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling. Cool for one hour. *Can prepare crisp ahead of time and freeze to bake at a later time. If frozen, increase baking time to approximately 1 hour.