This is the story of Katie Lucey, mother of two, wife to a newly vegan husband. She was diagnosed with Celiac disease in May of 2014 and made the switch to gluten free. On a rainy, cold Saturday, Katie invited Ian (my photographer friend) and I over to share the story of her impossible journey to a diagnosis that is allowing her body to begin to heal. She was also kind enough to indulge me in a day of her cooking. Katie taught me how to make a gluten free pie crust (included in this post) that she used for an amazing pot pie, gluten free flatbread crackers and a gluten free “cheesecake” (both to be featured in parts two and three). Being someone that isn’t gluten free, I was surprised and delighted to find that I didn’t miss the gluten for a second with these amazing treats! I think you will feel the same way. For more information on Celiac Disease, please follow the link below.
Walking in to the kitchen, I see a gorgeous pot of veggies, broth and seasoning boiling on the stove. It smells amazing. Katie tells me it’s potpie filling for the first recipe we will be making. She makes a 5 minute pie crust – gluten free, of course – and fills it with a vegan filling.
Piper: Ok, so how do you decide which flour to use when making your crust for this particular dish?
Katie: You have to play with it. It has been a tremendous experiment in flour – what works and what doesn’t. I really love Vitacost – it’s where i get this multi blend and the baking flour I use. The difference is, this multi-blend has xanthan gum already in it, so it rises nicely for all kinds of recipes.
Katie: I have so much flour that I’ve purchased and that I experiment with. I have gluten free flour, millet, oats, sorghum…um…what else is hiding…granulated honey that we use in place of refined sugar. You’ll see today that it’s just an experiment every time. I started primarily with brown rice flour but I’ve since expanded from that. I buy some of my flour from Vitacost and some just from Amazon. You can get Bobs Red Mill by the case for a pretty good price.
Piper: Ok, so why, aside from xanthan gum, why else do you use THIS particular flour for this crust?
Katie: The thing I love about this flour and their baking flour is that it has a better rise to it. Wheat flour is very light, gluten free flour is heavy. So if you are making something like pie crust and you want it to be flaky and you try to just jump in with an almond flour or brown rice flour that isn’t a blend, it’s going to be very dense. So I’ve played around with about 5 different kinds of all purpose flours, and each one works very differently. Some start with sorghum, some with brown rice but still have the xanthan gum and those will be so much lighter. The lighter ones will be magic for pancakes. I would also use one of those for breads, because they have the yeast in there to rise it. Pie crust and crackers, you don’t want those to rise. It’s all about making it flaky.
Piper: Ok, so I see you are putting ingredients into a food processor. What is the white goopy stuff you just put in there?
Katie: This goopy stuff is coconut oil. We start with gluten free flour, coconut oil…I’m terrible at recipes. I look them up, use them as a guide but I don’t really follow them. When people ask me for my recipes, I’m like…I dunno…I threw a bunch of shit in a pan, it worked.
For the sake of the readers, she has put some recipes together for us – they may need adjusting based on your personal taste preferences and oven.
Katie: So, I’ve now added Himalayan pink salt to my flour and coconut oil in the food processor.
Piper: I love that stuff – I don’t know why I love it more than regular salt.
Katie: It’s like magic to me. It’s a bit sweeter and a little lighter than white salt. I’m also adding granulated honey. Most pie crusts call for the same four things, a flour, a fat, a sweet and some water. And that’s how I break down recipes. I look at the list, everything comes in a list. I’m gluten free and my husband is not. We both are doing no artificial sugar, no refined sweetener, and he is eating a vegan diet – so we are both non-dairy. I will eat some butter, but mostly just when he’s not around. He gets to eat tomatoes now when I’m not around, because I’ve recently found out that I’m highly allergic to those as well.
Piper: Wow, that’s a lot of pieces to figure out. It sounds like your system is pretty sensitive.
Katie: Yeah, it’s in a place right now where it’s pretty crazy. I’ve switched my thinking on food to how is this food going to make me feel better, which is sometimes an emotional thing, but it’s also – how is this food going to make me feel worse and how can i tweak it so I can satisfy the emotional craving without damaging my physical body.
She is working diligently at her crust in the food processor and has all of the ingredients ready to mix.
Katie: Now we are just going to pulse our ingredients and get the coconut oil all combined. My food processor is invaluable to me. After everything is combined, do a pinch test to see if it sticks together. It didn’t quite stick right, so I am adding more fat, in this case that’s coconut oil. There isn’t a particular reason I use coconut oil, but with my husband being vegan, it works for us all with it. And this recipe just worked the first time I made it, so I’m sticking with it. People deem us “weird” eaters. If we have people over that eat “normal” food, I’ll make this potpie. It’s completely vegan, depending on how you feel about honey – I do cook with honey. Ok, so look now, when I push it together it sticks and clumps together. I know there is enough fat. So now I can add the water.
Piper: So you are gluten free – are your kids?
Katie: No, they eat gluten. I don’t try to restrict them, but they eat what I eat. I make the food here and because of my sensitivity, I can’t even be in a house where flour has been cooked with for 24 hours after, so I can’t really cook anything with gluten for them. I make bread, they eat my bread.
Piper: Do they complain after eating products with gluten about the gluten free stuff?
Katie: No, they don’t care at all. And my youngest, we call him the vegan baby because we can give him a plate of chicken and mac and cheese and carrots or pizza, but he wants to eat exactly what we eat. But our older son will eat all the other stuff – he’ll take all the pizza, mac and cheese and chicken nuggets.
Piper: That’s a good balance to have
Katie: Yeah, so now…you can see that the dough has formed a ball in the processor. That tells me it’s wet enough and I can take it out and work with it.
When you are working with a gluten free pie crust, it’s important to remember that you can’t roll it out like a regular crust – it’s too crumbly. I do two layers of wax paper – one on top and one underneath and roll out the dough like that.
Piper: Do you use a cold roller?
Katie: No, I just use a wooden rolling pin. I have used a cold roller, but for this – it works just fine. The other weird thing about this pie crust is that you don’t chill it. You just throw your ingredients in the food processor, in order, and blend it up.
Piper: And you have to put them in there in order?
Katie: Yep, because you want to mix the sugar and flour first, then add your fat until you can pinch it and it clumps together then add your water.
Piper: So, what made your husband decide to go vegan?
Katie: Well, he used to weigh almost 350 lbs…
Piper: I’ve met your husband, he certainly is no longer 350 lbs.
Katie: Correct! We started weight watchers together right before we got married, and he lost about 120 lbs, which was huge, but then he kind of got stuck. The weight just wasn’t moving. We both like documentaries, so after watching Forks Over Knives he started researching and came back and said he was going to try to do a plant based diet. I nearly fell over because we are both huge meat eaters. But he started in September and he’s lost over 60 lbs. and he feels great. We have a good crossover with eating Asian food – because it’s very easy to incorporate the gluten free. It’s our happy medium. We make so many different versions of stir fry. But for today, I wanted to make something that when you switch to a gluten free diet you miss.
Piper: I do love stir fry, and noodles and such. Do you find yourself eliminating things from your diet, or trying to make replacement, gluten free versions of things you used to love more often?
Katie: Depends on what it is, I try to be healthier in my eating instead of just resorting to finding pre made everything. Because you can now find just about anything pre-made. But I’ve found if you just switch your diet from gluten to gluten free and just replace everything with a gluten free version, you are really just eating a less healthy diet. What they add to make a gluten free product taste like the normal stuff makes it fattier, more sugar loaded, more processed. So many people, especially if they are diagnosed with celiac, just jump to a gluten free product and end up gaining weight.
Piper: Did you decide to go gluten free because it’s so trendy or was there another reason?
Katie: I am gluten free because I am a celiac. And because I had no choice. My doctor discovered mounds of damage from the gluten in my system.
Piper: What does mounds of damage mean? And how does a doctor make the determination that someone is a celiac?
Katie: The gold standard would be an endometrial biopsy of your intestines to see how your villi are looking, see if they are damaged. Mine was a convoluted diagnosis. Many doctors had just written me off as having eczema and just having neuropathy and nerve issues because I had extensive tingling, pain – tons of joint pain head to toe. I knew I had some issues, but I thought well, I just had two kids, I’m getting older, this is just how life is. But once they started doing MRIs, they found degenerative disc disease in my back, they found arthritis in my neck, hands and knees, and I had blistering. The blistering is called dermatitis herpetiformis, which is a rash associated with celiac. If you have this rash, you have celiac.
Piper: Was that the first symptom you had?
Katie: Yes, I had that for about 16 years when the testing started.
Piper: So, if they had known then that the blisters were associated with celiac, you could have avoided all of the rest of the testing?
Katie: Right, but at that point, people just weren’t being diagnosed with celiac.
Ian: How do you feel about the trendiness of the gluten free diet these days?
Katie: A lot of people get aggravated. They think that the people are being trendy and it’s putting a cramp in my style because I have a disease. But for me, it makes life easier. Look at all of the products that are out there now, look at all the restaurants I can go to and the menu actually says which items are gluten free. There is also, on the flip side, that people that aren’t gluten free find those that are kind of annoying. There are a lot of people out there that will say they are gluten free, when I cut out gluten my whole life changed…they are trying to push their diet on others, they seem to think their way is the only way. But there is more awareness now. Most restaurants have GF on their menu. Unfortunately, some restaurants and companies that use the GF symbol don’t actually know what it means. They might forget that soy sauce actually has gluten in it.
Piper: Even shampoo has gluten in it sometimes
Katie: Yes, I started making my own skin care products so that I would know exactly what goes into them. Sometimes even if a product is “gluten free”, you’ll turn it over and it will say that it’s made in a facility that uses gluten – which I can’t use. When I cut out the gluten as a test, way back before I knew for sure, my blisters immediately went away. What happens when you are a celiac is that the gluten hits your gut, your gut can’t process it and it becomes toxic to your system. The more you put in, the more toxins go out to your body. I never had GI issues, so nothing had ever come up but when we sat down and looked at the list, I had almost every symptom except GI – which my doctor informed me isn’t even really common in adults. I had years of infertility, I had several miscarriages, these can all be from celiac. I had hair loss, blisters, nerve issues, joint pain, disc issues, arthritis, so in the end they said that I had so many symptoms, and when I took out the gluten I felt so much better…so, Ok, let’s put the gluten back in and do a biopsy. I didn’t even make it 5 days. I could barely stand, my entire back was constantly spasming, my feet and joints hurt, I had terrible headaches and crazy brain fog. I was having these dizzy spells where I thought I was going to fall over. It was the gluten. After eating it for 3 days, it was just too much. And so, in the learning process, I was accidentally ingesting gluten. I’d eat soy sauce because…you know, it’s made of soy. Then I’d wonder why I felt like I was in mud. I was in such a fog that it would take every fiber of my being to do anything. So, yeah it was huge getting the gluten out.
Piper: So, the arthritis cleared up and everything after you cut out the gluten?
Katie: The pain went down significantly. Prior to removing the gluten, every time I would stand from sitting, it would take my breath away because it hurt so badly. It took the wind out of me. That hasn’t happened since I cut the gluten out. That’s from the inflammation from my system not processing the gluten.
Katie: The trick to this pie crust is that you roll it out between two pieces of wax paper. Then you can just peel off the top layer of paper and lay the crust overtop of the potpie filling.
I tasted the pie crust, because I just love raw dough. The texture is very delicate. I ask her if she has to worry about it falling apart a little bit. And what the trick is for that?
Katie: Yes, it’s going to fall apart, the trick becomes that you just kind of take the pieces that fall off and stick them back on.
Just get the whole top covered and stuck to the pan. It’s sticky once you push down, but yes, it’s delicate. There is a balance there with working with gluten free, you have to use more liquid. If you take a recipe that isn’t gluten-free and try to make it so, it will be very dense. I have to make cookies seem too watery, then I know they will be chewy and delicious. You look at the recipe and see what goes into it on a base level then adjust to meet the need. Gluten free will require more water, milk or oil to make it work. With my cookies, I will make a batch but only cook one or two at a time, see what adjustments I need to make so that I don’t waste an entire batch of cookies.
Piper: What a great idea! And with this recipe, the liquid on the inside of your pot pie will sufice?
Katie: Yes, it will. I put a little extra water than what the recipe calls for because of that.
To make the crust, Katie starts with this recipe:
But she subs in all purpose gluten-free flour, like one of the ones we talked about above. She also adds in a little extra water and oil. Remember, you’ll have to do the pinch test once it’s in the food processor to ensure it’s ready to roll out. If it doesn’t stick together when pinched, add more fat and continue blending until it makes a ball
As it began to bubble, the smell in the kitchen was overwhelming. After about 35 minutes, she checked the crust, which wasn’t quite browned to her liking, so back in the oven it went to torture us for another 5 minutes.
Now ready to come out of the oven, the crust was dark brown and made a delightful cracking sound when hit with a knife.
The blend of vegetables was perfect! The broth well seasoned and the crust was crispy and delicious. If you are gluten free and planning a dinner party with your friends that are, as Katie calls them “normal eaters,” put this dish together! I promise you no one will miss the gluten.
Please check out Ian’s other wonderful photography anywhere you can find it. Here are some links below! You can also follow him on twitter @furrycelt.
Part two is on its way out soon with another great recipe, tips and tricks from Katie Lucey. Keep your eyes peeled.