Finding Joy in Gluten-Free

For those of us who cannot eat gluten, the choice is clear: Eat familiar foods with gluten and say no to our health, or learn to love the foods that feed us and say yes to our lives. Life changes when we learn to say yes.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Layer Cake
Hazelnut-Vanilla Shortbread
Polenta "French Toast"

Like me, one out of every 133 Americans suffers from celiac disease, or celiac sprue, an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to perceive gluten -- the elastic protein in wheat, rye, barley, triticale, spelt, kamut, and farro -- as a toxin. Any gluten that reaches the small intestine damages the lining, causing inflammation. Ultimately, the body isn't able to absorb nutrients properly, which can lead to a host of physical ailments, including anemia and osteoporosis. Those with gluten sensitivity, a separate condition, also experience digestive problems.

But for all of us, the secret to healing is simply eating well. Just think about the many wonderful foods that are naturally gluten-free (if you're stuck, see the list on page below for inspiration): summer berries, grass-fed beef, zucchini from the garden. And nothing tastes sweeter than treats baked from scratch, which can include sumptuous gluten-free versions of French toast and chocolate cake.

Saying yes to what my body needs has led me to discover foods in season, strike up conversations with farmers, and even meet the chef who became my husband. The sense of curiosity I have developed will keep me creating and tasting for the rest of my life.

Whether you're following a special diet or cooking for someone who is, you have more choices than you might imagine. Many foods are gluten-free in their natural state. Here are some of my favorite dishes.

Vegetables and Fruits
Arugula salad with pears and black pepper
Corn on the cob (try it with chili butter)
Roasted potatoes with rosemary
Grilled peaches with creme fraiche
Rhubarb compote with vanilla ice cream

Meat and Seafood
Country ham with maple glaze
Thick porterhouse steak, cooked rare
Roast-chicken salad
Sauteed branzino with slivered almonds
Shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce

Dark chocolate
Raspberry-lime sorbet
Ripe strawberries

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