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Gluten-free cooking

By Staff | Apr 3, 2015



LAKE PARK – Life changed for Phyllis Johnson two years ago when she first heard the term celiac disease.

“I can’t eat wheat,”she said. “I’m not allergic to it, but it’s like the inside of my body is.”

Celiac disease is a chronic nutritional disorder characterized by defective digestion and utilization of fats.

Because of it she had to rid her diet of wheat products and food processed with wheat.

“I had to learn to read labels carefully,” she said. “You would be surprised how many things have wheat in them or are made in places where there are other wheat products made.”

She even has to have her own toaster and keeps her butter separate. She keeps a steady supply of gluten-free pastas, flours, crackers, cookies and other things that she can safely consume.

“I have bought some cake flour, and it’s the only kind of (regular) flour I keep in the cupboards,” she said of the flour she uses to bake for her family. “Otherwise, I use rice flour, potato flour and gluten-free baking flour to coat chicken to bake it and things like that.

“My family says they can’t tell the difference.”

Johnson said she can’t eat most canned soups because they are often processed in factories that manufacture other products that contain wheat.

“I make my own vegetable soup, chicken soup, and potato soup,” she said. “When I make it I put some in individual serving containers for the freezer and get it out when I want to eat it.

“It doesn’t seem like a lot of extra work.”

She said it’s sometimes tricky to eat out or at potlucks because she’s not sure what wheat products might be in the food. She said she will often bring a pan of chicken casserole to a potluck because she knows it’s safe for her digestion, and she brings her own snacks when she goes out to meet with friends.

“(One of the restaurants in town) will keep a chicken breast away from all of the other breading and chicken breasts he cooks, and so he often has that for me when I stop in, and that way I can eat something there,” she said. “But that’s a small town for you.”

Johnson said eating a gluten-free diet doesn’t seem difficult for her.

“There are things that are so much worse than that,” she said. “I feel sorry for people who have to cook that way for their whole families, though, because it’s a little more expensive to eat gluten-free food.”

Johnson has lived in the Dickinson County area all of her life, growing up near Spirit Lake. Her mother had a large garden and she carried on that tradition when she had a family of her own.

Johnson said when her family was growing up, they dressed between 300 and 400 chickens every summer for themselves and friends.

Last summer she canned more than 200 pints of garden vegetables for her family, including beans, carrots and tomatoes. She also froze the sweet corn they are eating this year.

“I used to can all kinds of fruits until sugar got so expensive there for awhile,” she said.

Some of her family’s favorites include her fried chicken, angel food cakes and Red Waldorf cakes for birthdays, and her Snicker apple salad, made with real whipped cream.

Johnson said if she has to eat a gluten-free diet, the process is very do-able today since grocery stores are recognizing the need for it and have larger selections.

It doesn’t stop her from making delectables for her friends and family, however. And for that, she uses typical ingredients used by most people when baking.

“I can’t eat any of those things, but I do still like making it for other people,” she said.

Johnson and her husband, Everett, farmed near Spirit Lake and have three grown children and six grandchildren.

Non-bake cookies

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup milk

Boil for one and one-half minutes, then add:

6 tablespoons cocoa

3 cups oatmeal

1 cup coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla

Nuts (optional)

Stir together and drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Cool.

Gluten-free chicken dish

2 cups potato chips, crushed

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons green peppers

1 tablespoon onion

1/2 cup mushrooms

4 tablespoons rice or potato flour

1 cup gluten-free chicken broth

1 cup milk

1/2 cup cheese

2 cups cut up chicken

Simmer butter, peppers, onion and mushrooms until tender.

Combine remaining ingredients (except potato chips) and cook until cheese melts and mixture thickens.

Place half of the potato chips in the bottom of a 9-by-9-inch baking pan, pour filling in, and top with other half of potato chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Macaroni corn hot dish

1 stick butter, melted

1 15-ounce can corn, not drained

1 15-ounce can cream style corn

1 1/2 (or 1 cup) raw gluten-free macaroni

1 cup Velveeta cheese, cubed

1/4 cup chopped onion

Combine all ingredients and place into 12-by-7-inch pan and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.


1 cup sugar

4 eggs

1 stick butter

1 cup gluten-free baking flour

1 16-ounce can chocolate syrup

Pour into small cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.


1 1/4 cups sugar

6 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Bring sugar, butter, milk and vanilla to boil. Once boiling, add chocolate chips and spread over brownies.

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