gluten-free girl and the chef: review and BOOK GIVEAWAY!


I’m doing a cookbook giveaway.  Just in time for you to plan your December holiday meals. If you’re gluten-free, I’m sure you’ll want this book. Even if you’re not gluten-free, you’ll still want this book. It’s full of great recipes for all, and wonderful story telling. About a love story. My favorite kind.

So here’s what you have to do:  Leave me a comment, about your most memorable romantic meal.  Or your least romantic meal.   You will be entered once into the drawing. If you want to see how I choose a winner, it’s totally random. See here.  If you want to be entered twice in the drawing, blog about this giveaway too, and leave me a comment letting me know you did so.

So what is this book?  It’s gluten-free girl and the chef, by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern.

I like Shauna James Ahern. A lot. We share common ground. She and I are both writers by profession, who love food, and who love to cook. We have both turned dietary restrictions due to illness into something that expanded our lives, instead of contracting it. I began cooking with ingredients I would never have considered if I hadn’t been plunged headfirst into the world of food allergies, and Shauna has done the same. The gluten-free grain companies (you know who you are!) owe Shauna a big fat thank you for putting old world grains back on the map. I don’t think “sorghum” even knew its own name until it met Shauna. I recognize in her a sister. She and I even fell in love with the same “first” cookbook, back in our teens, and this tome, Laurel’s Kitchen, was a source of life altering inspiration, propelling us both to experiment with new ways of thinking about food, new flavors, a new way of living.

So when I was asked to review her new cookbook by her publisher, of course I said “yes”! Let me be clear. In addition to liking Shauna, I had also thoroughly enjoyed her first book, Gluten-Free Girl. It was a sassy, funny, and extremely well written memoir/cookbook. I am a huge fan of the almost dead genre of literary cookbooks. M.F.K. Fisher and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings rock my world. These are the books I grew up on, that I read voraciously in bed at night. I love food, but I also love the “tale of the food”, the story around the recipe, even the story of the ingredients (ie, “Dora’s Ice Cream” in Cross Creek Cookery is a great little diddy, if you ever get the chance, read it… and fyi, “Dora” is a cow). So, I knew that even if  I couldn’t make some of the recipes in Shauna’s new book (due to my own food restrictions), at least I’d get a good yarn out of it.  I guess what I’m saying is that I didn’t expect to be so totally out-of-my-mind excited about the recipes, as they stand, alone from the story-telling.  But I am.  I’m very excited.  I’ve seen a lot of reviews that focus on the love story aspect of this book. I’m going to bring it back to the table for a minute.  Let’s talk about the FOOD!  Apple Rosemary Muffins?  What a brilliant idea!  TWO recipes for rabbit? I’m in heaven.  Veal Paprika, Asian Pear Tart?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Sure, there are some recipes in this book that I can’t eat, but there are many more that I can. So I’ll just make those.  In fact, I’m planning on cooking my way through this book, with a fervor I haven’t felt since I received “Spice”, by Ana Sortun, and cooked through it, spice chapter, by spice chapter.  This isn’t a “Gluten-Free Cookbook”. This is a cookbook, full of inspired, delicious, artful food that just happens to be gluten-free.  And while I’m at it, I’ll be treated to some really first rate story telling, and sumptuous food photography.  Love it, Shauna and Danny. Can’t wait for the next installment  in the story of your gluten free life.

I began my cooking journey through this book with fresh gluten-free pasta.   I have included the eggs, as written, because I don’t believe it’s fair to test a recipe, while changing ingredients, and then say it doesn’t work. Try it as written, if you can.  That’s how it was developed, and the only fair judge. Then go adapting it.  Of course, if you are allergic to eggs, DON’T DO THAT!   Wait for my update on how this yummy recipe does with an egg replacer, which will be my next installment.

fresh gluten-free pasta

recipe courtesy of Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern, from gluten-free girl and the chef, p.60

When you find out you cannot eat gluten, one of the first foods you worry about living without is pasta. There’s a certain mourning involved, imagining a trip to Italy without a mound of fresh fettuccine.

Guess what? The Italians make great gluten-free pasta, since many of their citizens have celiac sprue. You can buy a package of gluten-free pasta at the farmacia and take it to the best restaurant in town, where they will make the pasta of the day for you.

When we first started making pasta, we tried our favorite gluten pasta recipes with gluten-free flours, without much success. It took us about fifteen different recipes and wranglings with flour combinations before we figured out the right ratio of flours to liquids. Now, at least once a week, when we want a quick meal, we pull out flours and make homemade pasta.

Feeds 4

2/3 cup (70g/2.5oz) corn flour

1/2 cup (70g/2.5oz) quinoa flour

1/2 cup (60g/2.125oz) potato starch

2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1 teaspoon guar gum

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 large eggs

4 egg yolks from large eggs

Combining the flours

Sift the corn flour, quinoa flour, and potato starch into a large bowl. Add the xanthan gum, guar gum, and salt and stir. Sift the entire mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.

Forming the pasta dough

Put the eggs and egg yolks into the bowl of dry ingredients. Run the stand mixer on medium speed with a paddle attachment until the dough feels fully formed, about 3 minutes. The final dough should feel firm yet still pliable, a little like playdough.

Making the pasta

If you are using a pasta machine, cut the ball of dough into quarters and roll out each piece of dough to about a 1/2-inch thickness. We like to roll out each piece between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Lightly flour both sides of the dough with a bit more potato starch. Run the dough through the machine, increasing the setting each time, until the dough is paper-thin and long. If the pasta sheet starts to break, it is thin enough.

If you are making the dough by hand, we suggest you cut the ball of dough into 8 pieces, and then cut each of those pieces in half, so they are about the size of golf balls. Roll out each piece of dough as thin as you possibly can.

For fettuccine, use the fettuccine setting on the pasta machine. If you are cutting the dough by hand, you want ribbons of pasta, about 1/4-inch wide. For spaghetti, use the spaghetti setting on the pasta machine. If you are cutting the dough by hand, you want thin strings of pasta.

For ravioli, cut the rolled-out pasta into 2-inch-square pieces. Dollop the filling in the middle of a square of pasta. Brush the edges of the pasta with an egg wash. Place another pasta square on top and press down, crimping the edges. (Having a ravioli cutter on hand helps with this process.)

For lasagna, leave the pasta in long sheets.

To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put the pasta shape of your choice into the boiling water. When the pasta rises to the surface, take a little piece and taste it. You should be able to bite into it without it falling apart. (With gluten-free pasta, it’s a fine line. One moment it’s al dente, and the next it’s one big ball of mush, so watch the pot.) Cooking times will vary for the different shapes. Fettuccine generally takes 4 to 5 minutes, spaghetti 3 to 4 minutes. Ravioli takes a little longer, about 5 to 6 minutes. The cooking times will differ in each kitchen, depending on how thin you were able to roll out the dough. Let your taste be the judge.


You have some wiggle room with different flours here. Tapioca flour works as a replacement for the potato starch, as does cornstarch. You might try sorghum or brown rice if you cannot eat corn. However, be sure to substitute by weight instead of volume.


You can easily double or even triple this recipe for more pasta. Work with the pasta in batches if you do.

Please don’t forget to leave me a comment below about your most or least romantic meal!!!  I will do the drawing and announce the winner 1 week from today on December 8th.