Welcome to the Gluten-Free Recipe Challenge podcast! Here you will learn more about your host, Melissa Erdelac, and what she will cover in this cooking and baking audio recipe resource.
Click here to learn more about your host, Melissa. If you like to learn more about her gluten-free website, MamaGourmand, start here!
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Hey y’all. Welcome to the Gluten-Free Recipe Challenge. Here we will take beloved recipes you thought you would never enjoy again and transform them into easy copycat versions, just as good as the originals. Before we dive into your new Culinary 180, I wanted to share a little bit about myself and what you can expect from the.
First off, who the hell are you listening to? My name is Melissa Erdelac and I have been gluten free for about 13 years. I was diagnosed when trying to conceive child number three of four after a lot of years of infertility issues. Although I was happy to finally discover the source of all my miseries. If you’re listening to this, you’re probably familiar with how that diagnosis can rock your world.
I grew up in a large Italian family. I was number five of six and to pretty much sum it up, the only time we had box pasta was visiting friends’ houses. My mom loves to cook and bake, and she passed that passion on to us. All of our family gatherings, vacations, any moment together completely revolved around food and continues to be that way.
Everything is made from scratch and everything generally involves a lot of gluten. Because of how I grew up, I became an avid cook and baker myself. I could confidently create anything from homemade pies, fresh pizza, dough, bread, fresh pasta, anything. I loved it all, and cooking was an absolute passion of mine. I was really proud of how I could tackle anything, and I love to share all those things with others.
So I went from feeling like that to , pretty much like I’d lost my superpower overnight. I tried to attempt gluten-free versions, but back then they didn’t really have the gluten-free flours, like the all-purpose flours that they have now. You had to combine a bunch of different gluten-free starches like rice flour and tapioca starch and sorghum and coconut flour and potato flour to make anything.
So you go from measuring one cup of flour and putting into a recipe to pulling out like 18 different things to make something. It was a lot of work. It was a lot to buy. And then after all that, everything pretty much sucked. So one of the first things that I remember baking was cookies and I took ’em out of the oven and they had all melted together into one gigantic mess.
After that I remember trying a pie crust and when I baked it, it sinked down in the pan, so it was like a pile of dough at the bottom. And I definitely wasn’t even going to attempt gluten-free bread. And at that time they didn’t even carry gluten-free bread in grocery stores. So suddenly everything I knew how to do and I loved making was off limits.
And not only that, but I had a ton of cookbooks and kitchen equipment that all seem totally useless now. When I go to my family, when I go to holidays and family dinners, it became such a source of misery for me. I would feel sorry for myself because I couldn’t eat anything. Plus, I was pretty much a little pissed off too.
It felt isolating and holidays were even worse. There were things that I had looked forward to enjoying all year, and I can no longer have them. But on the outside, I try to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal but it was really hard on me to watch all my family eating those things that I grew up loving.
Sometimes it kind of seems kind of weird or trivial to be so sad about not being able to eat something, but it’s really hard. In our family, food is kind of our love language. It’s how we communicate with each other. It’s what we talk about. And it felt like I wasn’t connected anymore in that way. But just to throw out a disclaimer, I will say now it’s totally different.
My mom has been an absolute champ. She’s learned how to make all my favorites gluten free, and I never feel left out. In fact, it makes me feel even more special because when we have any sort of family get together, she’ll always have a little gluten-free lasagna for me or pasta, and she makes sure that I can enjoy everything along with everyone else.
She’s the best. So anyway, after feeling sorry for myself, I decided I just couldn’t give it all up. I wasn’t going to go down like that. Mostly because I really hated eating all that shitty food, but also I really hate being told I can’t have something. So I gave up on combining all the starches and instead just gravitated towards things that were naturally gluten-free, like flourless desserts and not weird gluten-free grains I’d never worked with before, but things I recognize like rice and oats and cornmeal. But luckily, capitalism started to work in my favor. More people were being diagnosed with celiac or having gluten-free allergies, so there was a demand for all purpose gluten-free flour blends.
They became more accessible. They definitely simplified things, but it wasn’t the magic fix for everything. Some things were pretty easy and straightforward to make, like cakes or brownies, but other things still didn’t work very well with the one-to-one substitution. I was starting to figure out how to tweak those recipes and make ’em work.
In 2016, I started my gluten-free food blog, Mamagourmand, and it was mostly at the insistence of my older sister to share my recipes. I was hesitant because it seemed like a lot of work. It was, but I was open to a project. I had 22 minutes a day wide open after weening my fourth child. So figured, why not?
Another side note about me is I don’t really do well with a lot of free time. I loved it immediately though. I could connect with people who I knew exactly what they were going through. I liked sharing all the tricks I’d learned and hearing how it had helped people in the exact same position I used to be in.
The goal was and still is, for my recipe to not only taste better than anything that they had tried, but to be super simple and straightforward to make. Now that I had four kids, I didn’t have the luxury of spending a lot of time in the kitchen or buying fancy ingredients. I knew there were a lot of others dealing with the same.
So there’s a lot of comfort foods on my site. Family friendly meals because while everyone in my family is not gluten-free, we all eat the same dinner. The ingredients are affordable and accessible because besides cooking, the other thing I love is a freaking bargain. In 2021, I published a cookbook, Frugal Gluten-Free Cooking, which really pushed me. Since I had to create and test recipes exclusively for six months, it kind of strengthened my recipe developing muscle. I learned even more ways to replicate gluten full taste and texture, and especially when it came to things heavily reliant on flour. My favorite type of recipes are the ones that I thought I would never enjoy a great version of again. I have a lot of those recipes on mamagourmand.com, but we all grew up with our favorites, and I bet you have some ideas too.
So this podcast is all about sharing those ideas. Every week I will take one recipe and transform them into a too-good-to-be-true gluten free version. The short and easy episodes will walk you through how to make, it any recommended ingredients, tips, hacks, I’ve learned. Basically anything you need to know to pull it off successfully.
I will always share the full printable recipe on my site, mamagourmand.com, and you can refer to that as well. So let’s get started with our first recipe. I want to show you how easy it can be and how you can still enjoy all the foods you love. Don’t forget to reach out with any recipe ideas or any questions you have.
You can email melissa (at) mamagourmand.com that’s M A M A G O U R M A N D, or you could find me on Instagram, you could DM me there, and my handle is @mamagourmand.
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