Gluten-Free Books, Menus Help Avoid A Bellyful of Woes

May is Celiac Awareness Month and I’ve been celebrating, helped by the growing number of gluten-free books and dishes available these days.

At a recent family reunion I told my cousin, who has severe digestive problems, about an informational toolkit from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness that also covers non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

People with celiac disease cannot eat gluten, the protein in wheat, rye and barley. It can damage the small intestine and lead to myriad problems such as rashes, migraines and osteoporosis.

My cousin’s doctor removed her gall bladder in an attempt to alleviate her condition, but it persisted.

After we discussed the options that weekend, my cousin followed my lead and ate her burger without the bun, her BBQ without the sauce and her catfish dusted in corn meal. She avoided gluten all weekend and within days felt great.

Doctor’s Orders

“The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution” (Rodale Press, $25.99) is peppered with stories like this. It’s by Arthur Agatston, a medical doctor, and offers menus and recipes for avoiding the protein and losing weight. I especially liked the details on different kinds of gluten sensitivity and the history of celiac disease.

The word celiac comes from the Greek koiliakos, meaning abdomen. Agatston writes that during World War II, children in the Netherlands saw their symptoms ease when there was a shortage of bread compared to after the war when the wheat products became more available. This led to the discovery that the gluten protein was the problem.

There’s a section asserting that the intestinal problems that plagued President John F. Kennedy throughout his life may have been celiac disease.

Ever wonder which ethnic cuisines are best suited to allergen-free eating? I thought Mexican food was naturally gluten-free but “Let’s Eat Out!” by Kim Koeller and Robert La France (R&R Publishing, $26.95) cautions that red chili sauce for enchiladas can have wheat flour as a thickening agent.

Koeller, a former partner at the management consulting firm Accenture, has had to travel with severe food allergies for years, and La France, a restaurant-service veteran, has dealt with people’s special food needs.

The authors give tips and sample menus in seven ethnic cuisines that are likely to be free of allergens like gluten or peanuts and what questions to ask if you’re not sure. There’s even a mobile app that tells you how to ask in other languages.

Sausage Gravy

A book that has waffles on the cover, a recipe for biscuits and sausage gravy and a “Breakfast for Dinner” section is just right for me.

“Gluten-Free Girl Every Day” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29.99) is written by Shauna James Ahern and includes an all-purpose flour mix of millet, sweet rice and potato starch. Use it to make your own pita bread, Indian flatbread or peanut butter bars.

One chapter has basic recipes for hosting a pot-luck buffet dinner with various cuisines. The meat section has a recipe for chicken strips that uses ground tortilla chips instead of panko bread crumbs.

Better Crumbs

Speaking of panko, there’s a new bread crumb in town called Better Crumbs made by the guys at Mozzarelli’s Pizza in New York. Plain or Italian Herb varieties are free of wheat, gluten, soy, egg, oil, yeast and dairy.

Mozzarelli’s sells gluten-free pizza crust and cookies at the 23rd Street store and ships all over the U.S. Information: +1-212-475-6777;

One of my newest discoveries in New York is a brunch cruise that offers gluten-free waffles! The $88 price tag includes a drink, like a Bloody Mary or Mimosa, and additional beverages can be purchased at the on-board bar.

The Manhattan, a 1920s-style luxury yacht, part of the Classic Harbor Line fleet, sails early for Sunday brunch at 10 a.m. but takes the long way around the city with views of all the bridges, the Financial District, Yankee Stadium and the Cloisters.

Ask for gluten-free options on many of Classic Harbor Line’s other cruises like the wine-and-cheese pairing classes. Information: +1-212-627-1825;

Garlic Bread

Pappardella is an Upper West Side Manhattan restaurant I’ve been going to for years. A gluten-free menu includes lots of pasta choices, and I particularly like the toasted garlic ciabatta served with a side of their house-made tomato sauce.

The restaurant is near Central Park and during the summer season offers a four-course Tuscan-style picnic basket for two that includes an antipasto, pasta salads and panini that can all be made gluten-free. It comes with a table cloth, but you have to bring your own blanket.

Information: +1-212-595-7996;

(Catherine Smith writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

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