BOOK REVIEW: '125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes': A Perfect Resource for Those With Food Allergies

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: '125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes': A Perfect Resource for Those With Food Allergies
It's ironic that Carol Fenster, author of "125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes" (Avery, a member of the Penguin Group U.S.A., 304 pages, $18.00) is allergic to gluten; she grew up on a wheat-growing farm in Nebraska. She also notes in the book that it was a typical meat-and-potatoes farm, with plenty of Angus beef, pork and chicken in the family freezer. It's enough to make anyone a vegetarian!

Gluten, an element of wheat  and related species,  including barley and rye, gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and keep its shape. To those suffering from gluten intolerance, like Fenster, consuming wheat and other foods containing gluten brings on "brain fog, fatigue and nasal congestion, often leading to sinus infections."

Fenster's book is a good introduction to the world of vegetarian cooking, particularly gluten-free cooking, because Fenster, president of Savory Palate Inc. in the Denver, Colo. area, is a pioneer in the field. 
Whether it's because of food allergies, celiac disease, or dietary preferences, more and more people want to eliminate gluten from their diet. Many are looking for hearty, flavor-packed vegetarian and vegan options to increase their energy and make healthy choices for their families and the environment. Fenster -- one of the country's foremost experts on special diets and an author of several popular gluten-free cookbooks -- comes to the aid of those seeking an easy to follow resource for at-home cooks. 
Carol Fenster
Carol Fenster

In "125 Vegetarian Gluten-Free Recipes", Fenster applies her proven kitchen prowess to creating quick-and-easy vegetarian recipes that are sensational and healthful. From snacks and appetizers like Baked Kale Chips, to filling dinners like Chili Cornbread Casserole and Eggplant Parmesan Stacks, to desserts like All-American Cherry Pie and Chocolate Brownies, "125 Vegetarian Gluten-Free Recipes" is the perfect addition to any gluten-free kitchen.

Fenster offers the following advice to those embarking on a gluten-free diet:
1. Beginners should choose a cookbook specially designed for wheat-sensitive persons. This assures early success and builds confidence. You can convert your own recipes to wheat-free later—when you’re a pro.

2. Replace wheat flour with a blend of flours, not just one flour. Choose from a wide array of flours to suit your preferences—rice , bean, soy, sorghum, potato, tapioca—then combine according to recipe directions.

3. Measure flour by loosely spooning it into the measuring cup. Level top with flat side of a knife. Don’t “round” unless specified in the directions and never pack the flour down.
4. Use more spices, herbs, and flavorings to compensate for the loss of wheat flavor. about 1/3 to 1/2 more than normal should do the trick.

5. Use special ingredients such as xanthan gum, which compensates for the lack of gluten and improves texture. Without xanthan gum, baked goods crumble and fall apart.

6. Choose baking pans and utensils wisely. Use smaller, non-stick baking pans instead of one larger one. Generously grease before using. Bundt cake pans distribute heat more evenly. Use dry measuring cups to measure dry ingredients; liquid measuring cups for liquid ingredients. The difference? Liquid measuring cups have spouts; dry measuring cups nest or fit together.

7. Take advantage of modern appliances and aids. Invest in a bread machine. Use a food processor or heavy-duty mixer for thorough mixing of dough and heavy batter. Choose non-stick cookie sheets or parchment paper, Teflon sheets, or Silpat liners to avoid sticking.
I do plenty of cooking, but I'm no expert. I know enough to search out the recipes in Fenster's large-format paperback book to find those that satisfy my vegan tendencies.

About the Author
Carol Fenster, Ph.D., is the founder of Savory Palate, Inc., a resource for people with food allergies, celiac disease, autism, and other medical conditions that require a special diet. She lives in Centennial, Colorado. Her website:

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