When you're diagnosed with celiac disease or decide to avoid gluten for another reason, your diet gets the star treatment -- it's Extreme Makeover: Gluten Edition.
No wheat, barley, rye or their derivatives. For the most sensitive, no food that has even been in contact with them, prepared on the same surface or fried in the same oil. A whole range of fast-food options, convenience meals and restaurant choices are forbidden, capable of causing days of wrenching discomfort.
Suddenly, cooking becomes more attractive, perhaps for the first time. That's where books like "Gluten-Free Cooking for Dummies" succeed. It's part cookbook and part textbook, first explaining what gluten avoiders need to know and why.
The book teams gluten consumer expert Danna Korn with experienced gluten-free cookbook writer Connie Sarros. The result is an accessible, smart guide to a personal issue of daunting complexity.
After 100 pages of education, it gets rookies cooking with eggs, hard to mess up and easy to replace. There's breakfast breads and bagels too, part of the book's focus on baking with different types of flour. Since it's not easy for most gluten avoiders to find acceptable baked goods at the store, home baking becomes another technique many will try for the first time.
"We all love bread, cakes, pizza and pasta," the book says. "Celiacs, especially those who are newly diagnosed, have nightmares of never being able to eat those processed carbohydrates again. None of these foods is traditionally gluten-free -- but they can be!"
The authors suggest blending your own gluten-free flour replacement, which will require a shopping trip to a well-stocked "natural foods" section. The mix includes rice flour, potato starch, tapioca and another unusual ingredient: xanthan gum.
Setting up your kitchen to deal with the possibility of contamination won't come naturally to most people, and it gets its own chapter. So does shopping for gluten-free ingredients, with a page on "saving money on ridiculously expensive ingredients." (Try buying gluten-free staples by the case and asking for a manager's discount.)
There are 150 recipes here, but you can only fit so many recipes into a printed book. The authors offer a step-by-step example of their strategies in coverting gluten-heavy recipes into gluten-free dishes.
>Gluten-Free Cooking for Dummies
By Danna Korn and Connie Sarros
342 pages, $20