Thursday, June 5, 2008

Grillin' It up with Carol of Simply Gluten Free

Welcome to May/June 2008’s Hot Smokin’ Edition of:

For this edition, please welcome

Carol, of Simply Gluten Free!

Ginger Lemon Girl: Carol, welcome to the Grill this month! First, let’s start with why you decided to start a gluten free blog?
Carol of Simply Gluten Free:
I started my blog primarily as a form of discipline. I wanted to start getting my recipes in one place and I felt that if I had a blog it would force me to work on it. Then I found that I really love the aspect of writing and food photography as well as the cooking. I never expected to find such a great community out there. Now I am hooked. I have made great friends through the world of blogging.

I love your recipes! They always seem fresh and simple! What inspires you to create recipes?
I think it really is what I say in my blog – celebrating the abundance of gluten-free living. I love to eat well and live well. I don’t like the idea of deprivation. By changing my viewpoint from one of deprivation to one of abundance a whole new world opened up for me.

What is your husband’s favorite gluten free meal that you prepare?
My hubby is probably the most appreciative person I have ever met when it comes to food. He always tells people I never cook the same meal twice – which of course is not true (but let’s not tell him!) But he really loves my lasagna style eggplant.

I know that your 9-5 career (or should we say 24/7 career) is an event/wedding planner. Have you ever had the opportunity to plan a gluten free party or wedding? If so, what was that like?
I haven’t yet. I personally like to entertain and I used to include gluten items when I would have people over but I don’t do that any more. I entertain for myself completely gluten-free. I also only bring dishes to others that are gluten free. Usually no one knows the difference unless I tell them. I would LOVE to plan a gluten free menu for a wedding or special event.

I believe your first post was about Thanksgiving! Was this your first gluten free Thanksgiving? What did you learn and what would you change for next year’s dinner?
Yes it was – WOW you are a great journalist! You did your research. This was my first primarily gluten-free Thanksgiving and the first Thanksgiving I was able to fully enjoy with no ill effects. Thanksgiving is HUGE in our house. It is our favorite holiday. My family threatens to go on strike if I change the recipes. The cool thing is they didn’t even notice it was totally gluten free and they liked the stuffing better than my original recipe. Just goes to show you. The only thing with gluten in that meal was the pie crusts. I would like to master a really great pie crust recipe that is gluten free. While I offer lots of desserts and always have gluten free options I like the idea of gluten free pumpkin pie!

You are a fantastic food photographer! What tips and tricks would you share with other food bloggers for successful photography?
Oh, thanks. This is what I work the hardest at. I really don’t know squat about photography but here is what I do – I keep the plating simple, I shoot outside in the shade, I place the food on a cheapo, white foam board from the office supply store and I bought a 50mm, 1.8 lens (inexpensive but it made the biggest difference in clarity of shots). Until this week I didn’t even have my own camera, I was borrowing my son’s. But I saved up and got a great, slightly used Nikon D200 from ebay for about ½ the price of new. Yeah – from now on my shots will be with my own camera!

Do you REALLY have to store your KitchenAid mixer in the guest house? Goodness, that must make baking very frustrating!!
YES! I have to walk across the back yard, up a flight of steps, get the mixer, walk back across the yard with it and then do the whole thing again when I’m done! Needless to say if I bake something the people eating it better appreciate it! On the flip side, I feel very virtuous getting all that exercise prior to baking so I eat all baked goods I make with abandon.

I have a small kitchen too, do you have any good gluten free storage tips for others with very limited kitchen space?
Ha ha! I am laughing because if you could see my pantry you would probably run in horror. I am what I call a trasher and then organizer. Every once in a while I ruthlessly organize my pantry and that lasts about 5 minutes and then chaos! But I do put all grains and sugars in separate containers. Now if I was really smart I would have bought stackable containers. So I guess that is my tip. Do as I say, not as I do!

Make sure to be on the lookout for Carol's new post at Simply Gluten Free with her recipe for Bacon Asparagus Egg Soldiers!

Pick 3 of your best recipes that you have blogged about: Why are they your favorites?
Hmm, boy this is kind of hard. Well firstly I love the Mocha Macaroons simply because they are great and really fit in with my philosophy about gluten free cooking. Then I would have to say my Apricot Almond Tart just cuz it is so good and then probably egg crepes, so versatile, so simple, and so fitting with my way of cooking, such a basic in my kitchen.

I love that you often praise your husband and say kind words about him! This doesn’t really relate to gluten free cooking, but you obviously have a very successful, long-term marriage – which can be rare nowadays! Care to share any good marriage tips?
You know here is what I think – generosity of spirit is free, we should splurge on it. Meaning it costs nothing to be kind, to be appreciative, to love and care for someone. So I think that factors in. A few of the things that have made our marriage really great are commitment, communication and creating our marriage. We decided long ago that we married each other for life and it could be good, bad or indifferent so we may as well make it good! We communicate honestly with each other, we make it safe for the other to communicate and we know that really great things just don’t happen. We have to make it happen. So we don’t take each other for granted. We are each other’s safety net. Sometimes life is really hard and the world seems hostile. We create a safe and loving environment so that we feel we can take on the world together. And very simply, we are just crazy about each other!

You recently started writing a food column for a food website/network. What have you learned during this experience and what would you share with other bloggers who are interested in writing for a living?
I have learned that I like to write. I have also learned that I am not really good with deadlines, so I need to work on that. I just went to a few online magazines and asked if I could write for them. It was easy to get started. If you never ask the answer is always no!

Do you have a gluten free candy that you are absolutely addicted too? I happen to be in love with Peanut M&M’s.
I’m with you on the Peanut M & Ms!

Do you have any background working in restaurants or food photography?
No, completely self taught. I’ve never even been a waitress. I have eaten in a lot of great restaurants though!

Is there any one particular food that you have missed from your gluten-filled days that you simply have not been able to recreate and you truly wish was naturally gluten free? (Myself, I would have to say Kentucky Fried Chicken! ;-) I know that’s awful, but boy do I miss it!)
OK, this will sound really bad but I do miss those squishy hamburger and hot dog buns!

What are some of your favorite cookbooks?
Ok, confession time – I have a serious cookbook addiction! I actually read them like a novel. I have hundreds. Even some really old ones. But my favorite is my first. I got it for my 8th birthday. It is a kids cookbook from Betty Crocker. It was the start of it all for me. Who knew that a little birthday present when I was 8 would start such a massive addiction?

Does anyone else in your family have celiac disease or follow a gluten free diet, other than your husband?
My hubby is not gluten intolerant but I cook, he eats. I took one look at my sister after having not seen her for a couple years and just knew she was suffering from gluten so I told her to get tested and sure enough, she is intolerant. My niece too. When people eat at my house now, they eat gluten free. They never even miss the gluten. Good food is good food.

I love that you describe yourself as a passionate cook! I think that is quite obvious in your beautiful photography and excellent recipes! How else would you describe your cooking and baking style?
More and more I am becoming all about simplicity. Good ingredients, vibrant flavors – that’s what I like. I like simple cooking styles as well.

What was the first food blog you ever read?
I think it was Gluten Free Girl.

Do you remember the first food or recipe you ever cooked? I think my first cooking memory is making chocolate chip cookies with my dad.
I used to love to cook with my Mom but I clearly remember making a lime pie from the cookbook I got when I was 8 for my Dad. I did it all by myself. He had been away for almost a year at war and I wanted to make him a special Welcome Home treat!

Is Charlie the housepainter still employed as your baking guinea pig?
Ha ha! Charlie has finished up for now, but he will be back and he will have to taste for me! It is part of the job requirement for anyone who does work at my house.

What areas of cooking are you still mastering? For example, I have a really hard time being creative with vegetables! I wish someone could be in my kitchen every day teaching me how to be a better vegetable cook! (Any takers??)
As you can probably tell from my blog, I don’t do a lot with traditional GF baking – mixing flours and all. You are a master at that. I’ll teach you veggies, you can teach me to bake!

What has been your greatest discovery since you started the gluten free diet?
It seems pretty easy to me to cook and eat when you can eat gluten. The best thing for me has been to discover the creative side of cooking when you have a challenge like a food allergy and yet you love to eat. Honestly, finally making that final step and going gluten free for good has been the best thing. And good health is nothing to sneeze at either (pardon the pun!)

What is your favorite International Cuisine? Do you have a favorite restaurant that is able to make safe gluten free meals for you?
If I had to pick one cuisine to live on for the rest of my life it would be Mexican! I love Mexican! We love this little dive Mexican place by my house. No one speaks English and the food is amazing! Cheap too.

Tell me how to buy and cook a really good eggplant! I have not yet figured out how to purchase one that is NOT bitter after being baked.
I look for an eggplant that has really smooth skin and feels heavy. I have heard about bitter tasting eggplant but I have not ever experienced it. I hear that salting the eggplant for ½ an hour draws out the bitterness but I think buying a good eggplant in season is the way to go. I always grill my eggplant unless I stuff it but even then I cook up the “meat” from the eggplant quickly over a high heat. I think that maybe the searing effect from the grilling or quick sauté might have something to do with not having it be bitter but that’s just a guess.

Carol, Thanks so much for being our Grill victim this month! What words of wisdom or advice can you give to those who are just starting out on the gluten free diet?
I think that when you start out to go gluten free it is best to stay away from substitutions for a while and let your taste buds adjust. Also just get in there and try new things. What’s the worst that can happen? You make something yucky and throw it out but at least you will learn from it.


Many, many thanks to Carol from Simply Gluten Free for being such a wonderful and willing participant this month! Make sure to visit her fantastic blog on a regular basis for simple and delicious gluten free recipes!

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Make sure to check later this week for a delicious summer salad!

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  1. Wow, this couldn't have come at a better time. I'm new to the gluten-free lifestyle and today has been a particularly difficult day for me and this post really lifted me up! Thank You!!! I love your blog!

  2. What a great interview. I always love reading these. Great Job as always.

  3. Awesome interview, Carrie. You sure have a knack for this stuff. You're not a journlist in your day job, are you?

    Also, I am totally trying Carol's top three recipes and loved to hear about the three C's in her marriage. Great stuff!

  4. Jenny -- I'm so glad this interview was inspirational for you! I think that's why I enjoy them so much! You can learn so much from others on the gluten free diet! I really love Carol's philosophy about life and about her cooking! I wish she lived next door!! ;-)

    Lea- Thanks gal! you know I love your comments! I'm so glad you like this series!!

    Good Eatah -- Thank you!! You have given me just about the highest compliment ever! My dad is a full-time journalist, so that means a lot to me (and I'm sure it will tickle him pink as well!) I loved what she said about marriage too! And she is SOOOO right! I'm so excited about your engagement!!

  5. Thanks for highlighting such a great gluten free cook! Love the series too. :)



  6. This is a wonderful interview with Carole. I love her bacon and asparagus recipe too...because everything is better with bacon.

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  7. Carrie,
    Thanks for the fun interview.

    I've got a question posed on my blog about flour brands and where to buy. Would you please stop by and give me your two cents? Thanks a bunch!

  8. Love the grills, thank you so much for doing them! Very informative. :)

    BTW, you've been tagged!

  9. Wow, I feel like such a celeb having my little self interviewed on your wonderful blog! This was fun and you really have a knack for journalisim.

    Thank you!

  10. BTW - I wish I lived next door to you too!