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Ashland resident's cookbook showcases gluten-free creativity

Most gluten-free cookbooks focus on “oats and groats” — not the way that Nancy Shulenberger’s family liked to eat when her daughter developed celiac disease.

So the Ashland resident developed her own recipes. The necessity of feeding two teens with a serious health condition turned to opportunity when Shulenberger founded Sterling Silver Food Company in 2010. Gluten-free breads, cookies, cakes and other sweets popular locally with Sterling Silver customers are just a few among 56 recipes in the 110-page, spiral-bound cookbook that Shulenberger self-published in late August.

“I’d love it if people would go home and make banana bread using my recipe,” says Shulenberger, 61.

Beyond her best-selling sweets, Shulenberger shares family-favorite soups, salads, entrees and side dishes in “The Sterling Silver Food Company Gluten Free Guide and Cookbook.” Easily digested information about celiac disease, gluten’s role in processed food and healthful alternatives constitute the book’s seven, short, introductory chapters.

“This really is a book I wish I could have had,” says Shulenberger of the trial and error of modifying family meals when both her teenage daughters were diagnosed with celiac disease about a decade ago.

A naturally occurring protein in wheat, barley, rye and triticale, gluten inflames the small intestine in people with celiac disease. Other symptoms include digestive problems, anemia, fatigue, headaches and joint pain.

The ailment masqueraded as a persistent stomach “flu” in the case of Shulenberger’s younger daughter. After months of eating “traditional tummy food” — chicken-noodle soup and soda crackers — the sixth-grader lost a good deal of weight before physicians finally arrived at a diagnosis, shared by other members of Shulenberger’s extended family.

“People are being diagnosed all the time, newly,” she says.

And with those diagnoses come families’ and friends’ confusion about a gluten-free diet, popularly touted for weight loss, but a life-and-death regimen for sufferers of celiac disease.

“It’s not a trend; it’s life-long,” says Shulenberger.

Her book, she says, is an ideal primer as the holiday season approaches for anyone who may be hosting gluten-free relatives. It also would be a welcome gift for anyone embarking on a gluten-free lifestyle, she adds. Priced at $14.95, the book retails locally at Ashland Shop'n Kart, Bloomsbury Books in Ashland, Harry & David Country Village in Medford, The Kitchen Company in Grants Pass and online.

The broader appeal of Shulenberger’s recipes is evident in Sterling Silver sales, say customers. The company’s apple spice cake with cream-cheese frosting reliably sells out at Wiley’s World Pasta Shoppe & Eatery and Bloomsbury Coffee House, both in Ashland. Coffee house owner David Light says he dropped some products from other, local bakers because Sterling Silver’s were in such high demand, even with patrons who aren’t gluten-free.

“They buy her product either way,” says Light.

Whereas many gluten-free baked goods quickly lose moisture and freshness, Sterling Silver’s don’t, he says. Tom Sawyer gluten-free flour, available online, is suggested for the majority of Shulenberger’s baked goods. Containing rice flours, tapioca starch, xanthan gum and gelatin, the flour is a reliable, cup-for-cup substitute for wheat flour in any recipe, says Shulenberger, who tried blending her own flour but found the process messy and time-consuming.

“The recipes in the book can be made by anybody,” she says. “I really believe in what I make.

“I just do regular food.”

Try these recipes from “The Sterling Silver Food Company Gluten Free Guide and Cookbook.” For more information, email Shulenberger at sterlingsilverfood@gmail.com.

Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 cups Tom Sawyer gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 cup (1 1/2 cubes) butter, softened

1 1/3 cup sugar

1 1/3 cup brown sugar

4 large eggs

2 cups pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons brandy or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cup milk

1 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two 5-by-9-inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices; set aside.

In bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter well and add the sugars, followed by the eggs. Scrape bottom of bowl to ensure all ingredients are combined. Add the pumpkin puree. Add the brandy or vanilla.

Alternating dry ingredients with the milk, add them to batter, beginning and ending with dry. If you choose to include the raisins, add them at this point and beat batter well.

Pour batter into greased pans (measure approximately 2 1/2 pounds per loaf) and smooth tops. Bake in preheated oven for 65 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick. Allow loaves to rest for 10 minutes and then remove them from pans to cool completely.

Makes 2 loaves.

Spicy Chicken Soup

4 chicken thighs, preferably boneless and skinless if you can get them

2 large carrots

1 celery root (celeriac)

1 medium yellow onion

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup long-grain rice (I like basmati)

2 quarts chicken stock

2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or more!)

1 (15-ounce) can kidney or black beans, drained

Mexican sour cream (crema), for serving (optional)

Chopped, fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Peel and dice the carrots, celery root and onion.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large soup pot and add chicken. In 3 to 4 minutes, add diced vegetables and brown them for another 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to combine. Pour in the chicken stock and add the oregano, cumin and Sriracha. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.

Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes until rice is tender. Add the beans and cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve soup, if desired, with a dollop of crema (Mexican sour cream) on top and a sprinkling of the chopped cilantro.

Makes 6 servings.

Sterling Salad Dressing

1/4 cup good-quality, extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons vinegar, either balsamic for a bolder taste, or white-wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed (optional)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon honey (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients in a small, covered jar or plastic container. Shake well and dress salad immediately. Makes scant 1/2 cup.

Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.

Nancy Shulenberger makes gluten-free chocolate chip blondies at Rent-A-Kitchen Wednesday in Talent. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore
'Gluten Free Guide and Cook Book' by Nancy Shulenberger.