No Grain, No Pain

egfgcoversmallEveryday Grain-Free Gourmet: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Jodi Bager and Jenny Lass
Whitecap, 2008

Imagine a world where bread hurts. I don’t mean getting whacked in the head with a baguette, but where eating bread or rice or a gooey cinnamon roll causes real illness and pain.

For people suffering from celiac disease, items made with not just gluten-heavy wheat, but all grains and carbohydrates, can be a ticket to the hospital.

Everyday Grain-Free Gourmet is the second recipe book in a series by Jodi Bager and Jenny Lass, and offers a cookbook alternative for people suffering not just from celiac disease, but a whole variety of digestive disorders such as colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and more. This selection of recipes is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which was used in the early 20th century by people with celiac disease. It was replaced mid-century by a gluten-free diet, but many people suffering from digestive disorders found the gluten-free diet did not work especially well, and a return to the SCD was more effective on their symptoms. As both Bager and Lass suffer from digestive disorders, it’s safe to say that their combined experience lends them suitable expertise to create such a book.


grainfreecrackersBeginning with a history of the SCD, the book details the difference between the SCD and gluten-free diets and explains why the SCD works better for most people.

Readers will immediately note the absence of every type of carbohydrate. There is no wheat, no rice, no soy, and no potatoes. There’s not even any lesser known grains such as quinoa or amaranth. Likewise, no refined sugar, including maple syrup. Dairy is minimal and is generally in the form of homemade yogurt. Yet this diet should not be confused with the Atkins-crazed low-carb frenzy that shook the world a few years back – this is not a weight-loss book, there is no counting of carbs, calories or fat grams; it is geared towards people with specific health concerns.

It’s also not going to be a great book for folks who eat on the run. As processed foods can often contain hidden carbs, every single recipe is made from scratch. The first section of recipes is something Bager and Lass call “Standards”, with recipes for mayonnaise, vanilla extract, tomato paste, honey syrup and sugarless jam. These standards work as the building block ingredients for many of the other dishes.

grainfreetunawrapFor instance, egg crepes made with almond flour work in a variety of recipes; in place of bread for sandwich wraps, cannelloni pasta, or in both sweet and savoury crepe dishes for breakfast and dinner. Also unlike Atkins, while the SCD is heavy on the meat dishes, fruits and vegetables are not verboten, and appear in recipes for all meals. A couple of “risotto” dishes are based on cauliflower in place of rice and look like the real thing.

And while there’s only one vegetarian main included in this book, most of the soups are vegetarian and there are plenty of vegetable side dishes, so a creative vegetarian could easily adapt many of these recipes into their own menu plan.

There’s even a section of baked desserts, again relying on almond flour in place of wheat flour. While this high-protein alternative is high in fat, it is light in flavour, and when ground fine, seems to replace wheat flour with little problem.

The issue some readers might have is in actually tracking down the almond flour on which so many recipes are based. Almond flour is simply blanched, ground almonds, whereas “almond meal” is almonds ground with the skin still on. Both are interchangeable and almond flour/almond meal can be found at most health food stores. It can also be made at home in a food processor if freshness is a concern.

Almond flour is really imperative to achieve the full potential of this recipe collection, however, as it’s needed for the basic crepes, and in muffins, biscuits and pancakes for breakfast. It goes into quiche and tuna melts at lunch, in crackers, tarts, and pizza at dinner, not to mention in a coating for fried chicken. In the dessert section, it can be found in everything from cookies and brownies to poundcake.

Overall, I could see no reason for feeling deprived eating these recipes every day. Bager and Lass offer enough dishes replicating grain-based comfort foods that the meals should easily satisfy. And since everything is made from scratch with no store-bought processed foods at all, this would even be a good recipe book to use as part of a mini-detox for people who don’t necessarily have digestive disorders but who just want to get away from the refined carbohydrates for a while.

The only negative in terms of sticking to such a meal plan long term is that it does require plenty of time in the kitchen, as everything, even the condiments and yogurt, is made fresh. However, folks with food allergies and digestive disorders are well accustomed to having to do an extra bit of work in order to have something to eat that doesn’t make them ill, so the Everyday Grain-Free Gourmet should fit the bill with ease.

Photos copyright Grain-Free Gourmet, from their website.