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After James River High School graduate Carrie Forbes started a blog about her attempt to switch
to a gluten-free diet, a publisher asked her to write a cookbook. It was released in October.
Courtesy Carrie Forbes
Carrie Forbes, a native of Botetourt County, has written a cookbook called "The Everything Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Cookbook."
Courtesy Sarah Neilsen
Hot chicken buffalo bites are one of the appetizers featured in Carrie Forbes' cookbook, "The Everything Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Cookbook."
Carrie Forbes' cookbook, "The Everything Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Cookbook."
Courtesy of Carrie Forbes
Roast chicken with lemon and artichokes is one recipe in the book.
Courtesy Carrie Forbes
The slow cooker isn't just for entrees. The recipe for this blueberry French toast casserole is in Carrie Forbes' "The Everything Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Cookbook."
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Carrie Forbes was raised in Botetourt County, where her mom and dad (retired Roanoke Times reporter Cody Lowe) instilled in her a love of good food. But she never knew how much she enjoyed cooking until she grew up and moved to North Carolina.
There, the James River High School graduate also decided to start a blog about her attempt to switch to a gluten-free diet, which eventually would relieve her of some miserable health problems. It happened that Forbes' switch to the gluten-free lifestyle came as more and more Americans were making the same choice.
Forbes' blog caught the attention of a publisher, who asked her to write a cookbook. "The Everything Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Cookbook" was released in October.
I asked Forbes to tell us more about her experience and share a couple of her favorite recipes.
Q: When and how did you fall in love with cooking?
Cooking was always a big part of our life growing up.
Both my mom and dad cooked. I remember learning to bake pretty early on, and ironically one of my favorite things to make was a recipe for mock Hardee's biscuits. I made some darn good biscuits!
I really enjoyed working with my hands and learning how to handle ingredients and learn what foods went well together.
Q: When did you change your diet, and why?
While I was reading various other food blogs, I stumbled upon one called "Gluten-Free Girl" by Shauna Ahern.
I had never heard of gluten before that point, but her blog was beautifully written with amazing photography. When I started reading about her symptoms and her journey, so many things started to "click."
Since I was a teen, I had struggled with severe migraines, and I had been to five or six doctors but not one ever suggested that food could be a cause. I was willing to try a gluten-free diet.
Not long after I started the diet, I started a food blog, which turned out to be an incredibly fascinating way to document my journey. I had no idea at the time how saturated the American diet is in products that contain gluten.
The more I took gluten out of my diet, the more my body reacted when I ate it. So about two years into my journey, I realized it just wasn't worth the stomach pain, the awful migraines and the diarrhea to cheat.
It's gotten easier, especially in the past two to three years as gluten-free has become a much more well-known term in the food world and in restaurants.
Q: Why do you think so many people are going gluten-free?
The primary reason people go gluten-free is because they are diagnosed with celiac disease or with some form of gluten sensitivity.
Another reason people go gluten-free is that, like me, they think they may have a gluten sensitivity but do not receive actual testing to confirm it.
In my opinion, it certainly won't hurt people to test themselves for a month or so and see how they feel. But (and this is very important) if you want a reliable diagnosis of celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, it's important NOT to stop eating gluten until you've seen your doctor or a gastroenterologist for the proper testing.
Some of the diagnostic tests will not give accurate results if you have already cut gluten out of your diet.
Some doctors recommend that people with rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain, fibromyalgia, and similar disorders try a gluten-free diet to see if it will help. Still others put their children on a gluten-free diet in an attempt to holistically treat autism spectrum disorders.
Unfortunately, a lot of people are touting books and websites about how you can lose weight when you go gluten-free. How I wish this was the case! Some people do lose weight, but many do not. I actually gained weight when I went gluten-free.
Q: What were some of the lessons you learned as you taught yourself how to cook gluten-free?
In learning how to cook gluten-free, I learned to persevere. I learned that just because it may not turn out right the first time, that doesn't mean it won't the second or third time.
Another major thing I've learned is that if you live in a "combined" household, it's important to have separate preparation areas. You don't want to stir the gluten-free pasta with the spoon you used to cook the regular pasta or slice the gluten-free bread with the same knife that cut the regular bread. All those little crumbs and molecules can make a gluten-free person very sick.
It's also a challenge to cook at other people's homes, such as when you are visiting family over the holidays. Often it's easier to bring your own food. Also, it's amazing how many family activities revolve around food. Sometimes it can be fun to incorporate new family traditions that aren't necessarily food-related, like a family bingo night or going bowling.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to write the cookbook?
I decided to write this cookbook when the publisher contacted me and asked me to write it. She had read my blog and felt I was a good writer who could create the types of recipes they wanted. It was a true honor to get that email and I'll never forget that day.
I had been using my slow cooker a lot that year and had posted about it on my blog. I work full time in the Health Sciences Library at East Carolina University and I commute an hour to work, so I'm usually away from home at least 10 hours each day - and I am way too tired to cook a huge, gourmet meal when I get home.
Still, I had no idea how versatile a slow cooker could be until I wrote the cookbook.
One of the big things I learned was how easy it is to overcook stuff in most slow cookers, so my general rule of thumb is that most things will cook through in three hours on high heat or six hours on low heat. And never, ever leave anything on the warm setting for more than two hours - it's an easy way to get food poisoning. You don't want to know how I learned that!
Q: You have said you couldn't have written this book without your husband, Michael. Does he follow a gluten-free diet?
Michael does not have to follow a gluten-free diet, but since I do most of the cooking at home, he usually eats gluten-free at home. When we go out to eat, he eats whatever he wants, but he is very considerate about making sure not to kiss me after a restaurant meal without brushing his teeth first to make sure all the gluten he consumed won't affect me.
As far as writing the cookbook, Michael is truly my best and most helpful critic. He's an excellent writer himself and truly has a gift for editing and helping me brainstorm if I'm stuck. He's also extremely good at giving me the constructive criticism I need without hurting my feelings.
Q: What are your favorite recipes in the book?
My absolute favorite is probably the blueberry cobbler. It's a variation of my friend Heather's grandmother's blueberry cobbler and it's from the 1940s. Another favorite is in the same chapter, and that is the slow cooker gluten-free yeast bread.
In the remaining chapters of the book, I love the blueberry French toast casserole and the Peruvian chicken. I also like the kid's chapter and the 5-ingredients-or-less chapter because they are so easy.
Q: What do you have up your sleeve now?
I have two books I'm working on right now. I'm working with the same publisher because I absolutely love my editor, Lisa Liang at The Adams Media company, which publishes "The Everything" series.
The books that are coming out this summer and fall are "The Everything Gluten-Free College Cookbook" and "The Everything Gluten-Free Baking Cookbook."
Q: What would you say to someone who is new to the gluten-free diet?
Do you like steak and a baked potato? That's gluten-free. Do you like eggs and bacon? That's gluten-free.
I often tell people just to stick to the perimeter of their grocery store, at least for the first few weeks. Eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, chicken, fish, pork and beans. There are really a lot more choices than people first realize.
As far as eating out, you can often still visit some of your favorite old restaurants and talk to the manager or the chef. Tell them your needs and describe what you can eat. If they care about your business, they will help you.
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