Interview with the Gluten-Free Diva: Jules Shepard of Jules Gluten Freeby caroline
It’s no secret I love Jules Shepard of Jules Gluten Free.
I mean, really, she’s a gluten-free whiz and just can’t seem to stop coming up with A-MAZING recipes, using her line of gluten-free flours, mixes, oats and more. I recently had the chance to try some of her products, after scoring an awesome deal on her New Customer Pack. Check out all of the yummy-ness I made:
- Gluten-Free and Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Gluten-Free and Vegan Chocolate Macadamia Granola
- Gluten-Free Red, White and Blue(Berry) Muffins
- Gluten-Free “Graham” Crackers
- Gluten-Free Bread with Flaxseed
I fell in love at first bite and immediately got to wondering, “What else might this gluten-free guru have up her sleeve?” I found out, during this interview where Jules spared some of her time in the kitchen to answer a few questions for me. Gosh, she’s the best.
1. In your book, The First Year: Celiac Disease and Living Gluten-Free, you address the process of dealing with celiac disease and working through the first year of living without gluten. What do you think are three of the top misconceptions people (gluten-free and non-gluten-free) have about that transition and what a life without gluten looks like?
There are many, what I call “myths”, about living gluten free. Unfortunately the worst part about these myths is that they make people fearful of trying the diet or of getting tested for celiac disease. It always makes me so sad to hear that someone with celiac disease is urging their family members to tested (because we know that it is genetic), but they won’t do it because they don’t want to know if they have it, thinking it will doom them to a life of deprivation, rather than understanding that it could be saving their lives. That’s one reason I try to provide people with easy recipes for foods they already know and love, so that they won’t have to miss out on anything and can maintain the diet and their health. So, the first myth would definitely be that people mistakenly believe that going gluten free is all about deprivation, when it really is not like that at all. I have made everything from gluten-free puff pastry to veggie tempura; an 11 foot tall cake to dainty wedding cookies; fish sticks to sandwich bread … and everything in between. All gluten-free and all delicious!
Other myths include things like, all gluten-free foods are gritty and leave an aftertaste. Not true. Foods that are heavy on gritty rice flours or are made with bean flours will often turn out like that, but I rarely use either and my foods are soft and moist, and never have an aftertaste.
People also mistakenly believe that gluten-free foods must be higher in fat and calories. Again, not true. Many pre-made foods are indeed higher in fats and calories, but that’s often because those manufacturers are relying on those gritty or bad tasting flours I mentioned, and they are covering up for those problems by adding butter and sugar. When you use the right gluten-free flours, there’s nothing to have to mask, so you can bake low fat and lower calorie foods if you like. I do it all the time!
2. What is one of the most difficult aspects of developing recipes? Do you ever just hit a wall where you think, “What am I going to make next?”
Haha! That’s a funny question because I was with some other gluten-free bloggers this weekend and we were all laughing about how much there is to write about and how we never have enough time! I try to bake by the seasons and use foods that are fresh and available at the time, and I never get through all my recipe ideas! I have fresh rhubarb on my counter right now calling to me to get creative! (Boy, did she ever — check out her Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins!)
3. How long have you been gluten-free? How did the lifestyle translate to your family life? (e.g. Were your children always gluten-free?)
I have lived gluten free since my diagnosis with celiac disease in 1999. My son was born in 2000, so he’s always been exposed to my gluten-free cooking (early on, he was probably lucky he was stuck eating baby food!). My family eats what I prepare, and I prepare all gluten-free food. My kids have not been diagnosed with celiac disease, but I get them tested each year, since it is genetic and I want to stay on top of it if they do develop the disease. They do eat gluten when they are away from home and I keep a loaf of regular bread here for fast lunch sandwiches if I need for them, but most all the food at our house is gluten-free.
4. What’s your advice for handling the naysayers — the people who say, “just a little bit won’t hurt”; the grandmother who is not ill-intentioned, but just doesn’t get it; or even the server at a restaurant who doesn’t seem to be taking your gluten-free requests seriously?
Wow – that’s a long answer! There’s really a different way of handling each situation. If it’s your grandma and you don’t want to hurt her feelings, you can explain it like it’s an allergy that will make you really sick if you get any gluten (she probably doesn’t need to know the ins and outs of celiac disease) so it’s just best if you bring your own food. If it’s a server who doesn’t seem to get it, I always ask to speak to the manager or the chef (I actually usually start with the manager, unless the restaurant is really gluten-aware). I don’t take chances in restaurants and I walk the manager or chef through each step of possible cross-contamination and I ask to see ingredient packaging/nutritional labels as well. Despite my vigilance, whenever I’ve been contaminated with gluten, it’s always been when I’ve eaten out, so I really try to be explicit and clear, and order as simple a dish as possible. When necessary, I have resorted to telling them I have a food allergy so they will get a mental picture of an ambulance pulling up to the front door of the restaurant if I have a reaction to their food –Not good for business! That usually makes them eager to get it right, but I’ve found most restaurants already want to prepare a safe meal for me and do their best to do so.
5. A life without gluten: Do you ever spend a day looking back? Do you feel like the rewards far outweigh whatever negatives might be attached to a gluten-free lifestyle?
My perspective has changed over time with this diagnosis. I definitely felt grief in the beginning and desperation when I couldn’t find anything I could make that was palatable. But once I figured out my go-to flour mixture for everything, I could make everything deliciously again and I returned to my old recipes with hope. That changed it for me, which is why I try to help as many people as possible get to that point quickly; the flour mix was the key for me and it has been for so many others as well. The next step for me (once I knew I could make whatever I wanted, and make it gluten-free) was to start to branch out and add better nutrition to my diet. Having to read food labels has been a blessing because it’s forced me to decide with each meal whether that food is really worth the calories, or if it’s healthy enough for my family. Of course we still enjoy our desserts and splurge once in a while, but I am a far healthier eater and live a far healthier life now that I’m gluten free. I think if folks embrace it from that perspective, they will be thrilled with their new lives and will never look back.