My gluten-free life (with a recipe)

round gray bowl

After I moved to Switzerland, digestive issues that had previously been annoying but manageable ramped up and made me quite miserable. So I tried eliminating a variety of foods in various combinations, at the most extreme point being unable to eat anything except vegetables (and not all of those either). This was depressing. Living in Switzerland and being unable to eat bread, cheese, chocolate, potatoes, or meat is no picnic, I assure you.

Following several scary gastric attacks I had my gallbladder removed, which relieved some symptoms but meant I had to take supplements to help with fat and protein digestion. The food sensitivities calmed down, though, and I have found that the main thing I still have to eliminate is gluten (along with coffee, chocolate, and cow milk). I don’t have celiac disease and if I get a trace amount I seem to be okay, but I definitely do better without gluten-containing foods on the whole.

This required adaptation of my cooking and eating habits. Pizza is my favorite food, now off-limits. I love whole-grain bread (I even wrote a book about it, for goodness’ sake!) but I’ve gotten used to going without. My addiction to rye crackers was harder to break and I’m not sure it’s better that I’ve replaced them with rice cakes, but I’ll deal with that in time. Pasta is a convenience food I can do without, given a little extra time and forethought. And it’s better for me not to eat cookies or cake anyway. So I’m doing all right overall, especially recalling those days when I couldn’t eat much except lettuce and carrots. Getting to eat an egg or feta cheese or some lentils feels like cause for celebration in comparison.

green vegetables in bowl
Yay, something I can eat! Photo by Cats Coming on

For me, inconvenience is the main drawback of not eating gluten. Glutinous foods like bread, noodles, and tortillas are wonderful for quick meals, forming a backdrop to or wrapping up other ingredients. They are also the bulk of what you can find to eat when you’re out of the house, at least around here. It’s all pizza, sandwiches, pasta and the like. Ingredient lists have to be scanned carefully, as gluten can sneak into seemingly innocuous items like salad dressings and falafel. I get most depressed when we’re out and about, I’m hungry and I can’t find anything I can eat. Back to the salads again.

I usually do not like gluten-free substitute pasta and breads. I bought some red-lentil pasta and it was so disgusting, none of us could finish it, even my normally voracious son and non-picky husband. I’d rather just cook and eat some red lentils! Likewise, I would rather eat rice or quinoa or millet than bread made of rice or quinoa or millet flour.

Sweet potato cinnamon rolls from Vegetarian Times – yummy but not gluten free! (Click here for recipe)

For our Christmas morning breakfast I always make sweet-potato cinnamon rolls from a recipe I found in Vegetarian Times; to avoid breaking the tradition this year I tried making a GF version for myself and the normal ones for the guys. It was not anywhere near the same. I decided I would rather just eat a sweet potato topped with cinnamon and sugar, so that’s what I’ll do next year. (The frosting I made with goat cheese and maple syrup was delicious, though).

I also always make pancakes on Sundays, so I needed to adapt that too. After trying a low-gluten spelt/buckwheat version to see if just a little gluten once a week would be okay (answer: no), and some unsatisfactory gluten-free experiments, I decided to make myself some savory root-vegetable cakes that can serve as a side dish for the others. With a fried egg and some fruit salad, I’m happy as could be with my Sunday breakfast.

I’m including my recipe in case anyone else would be interested. If I come up with any other tasty GF options, I might share them here.

Do you have a favorite gluten-free recipe? Have you ever had to change your eating habits, and how did it go?

Gluten-free Root-vegetable Griddle Cakes


  • Two cups finely grated mixed root vegetables (my favorite combo includes sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, parsnips, and jerusalem artichokes)
  • 1 small finely chopped shallot
  • Two tablespoons chickpea flour
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Dried or fresh herbs of choice, optional (I use herb salt or a salad herb mix)
  • 1 egg

Mix all together. Form 2-3 tablespoons into small patties and saute in a hot pan with olive oil. Cook on both sides until brown. Serve immediately. Makes 10-12 small patties.

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19 thoughts on “My gluten-free life (with a recipe)

  1. My sister has been dealing with the same problem for several years now, and she’s a chef! A couple of years ago, after much experimentation, she discovered she can eat sour dough bread made using extreme fermentation — also works well for pizza dough, rolls, etc. (Email me if you’d like her contact info — I’m sure she’d love to give you some suggestions.)
    Your vegetarian pancakes look good. Definitely going to give them a try!
    Good luck with this journey!

    1. Interesting, that was the theory I expounded in my sourdough book, though I did not have personal experience of gluten intolerance at the time I wrote. Thanks for good wishes! I am also going to see a functional medicine practitioner and am hopeful that might help as well. Will ask about the sourdough possibility.

  2. Hi Lory! Lizzie’s sister here. Just wanted to add to her note above. My research led me to the Australian studies on the FODMAPS diet, fructans and how to essentially denature them. Hence my delving into making and selling extreme fermented sourdoughs.

    When I ferment the sourdough in the fridge for 24 to 60 hours, besides developing amazing flavor, it also allows me to have small amounts, such as a slice a day.

    When someone asks if they can eat it, all I say is you can try. If it causes stomach issues, stop eating it. It certainly is not for anyone who is on the high end of the celiac spectrum and must avoid all gluten.

    Best of luck. When you get a chance, please share the name of your book. I might not be able to cook from it, but I love learning!


  3. Those griddle cakes made with those ingredients had me salivating! I wish you huge luck in sourcing delicious alternatives to gluten-laden recipes.

    1. Glad you found them tempting in spite of my not-so-appetizing food styling. 🙂 They do taste better than they look.

  4. That’s a frightening experience and tough to give up favorite foods without finding particularly satisfying substitutes. But the griddle cakes sound wonderful! I wish you the best in getting effective help with the health issues and finding great recipes that appeal.

    1. I’m actually all right now when I am home. Finding substitutes in restaurants or fast food is much more challenging. (An upside of being mostly confined to the house, ha ha!)

  5. Welcome to the gluten free club! No one really wants to join, but we’ve got each other’s backs 😉 I’m a not-even-once-in-a-while-makes-me-very-sick coeliac, and it’s been over ten years since I’ve willingly/knowingly eaten something gluteny. What I can tell you is that the inconvenience never really goes away; I barely miss the breads and pastas and whatnot, but I REALLY miss the convenience of just grabbing a 7-11 sandwich or whatever. Luckily, as more people are learning and experimenting, gf convenience options are becoming more widely available. Always happy to chat if you need advice, need to whinge, or anything else! ❤️

    1. Me too, I mainly only miss the convenience. There are options available in Switzerland, but the awareness is still way lower than in regions of the US where I lived previously. Thanks for the offer of support, I will give a holler if I’m really stuck!

  6. Sorry you are going through this, though these days, there are lots more options available than let’s say 15 years ago. Thanks for your yummy recipe!

  7. I’m sorry you had such digestive troubles, but glad you seem to be finding a way around them. Unlike you, this would be the worst diet for me, because it is heavy in lentils and that’s a food sensitivity that I have (also, I could never give up coffee or chocolate)! Good luck with this, and stay healthy!

    1. I devoutly hope you will never have to give up your treats! I am hoping that maybe when I get things ore in balance I’ll be able to indulge once in a while.

  8. Every time I moan about my lactose intolerance, I think about people like you who have to suffer so much more. Let’s hope they’ll come up with something really worthy of a replacement for flour.

    1. I’m OK doing without flour really. I just wish there were more gluten-free options when buying prepared or restaurant food. Oddly enough around here there seems to be more lactose-free awareness.

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