weeknight gluten free: eating well and thriving with kristine kidd

As executive editor of Weldon Owen’s Food + Drink department, I’ve had the pleasure of working with dozens of smart, savvy cookbook authors over the years. Working with Kristine Kidd has been one of my favorite experiences.

As executive editor of Weldon Owen’s Food + Drink department, I’ve had the pleasure of working with dozens of smart, savvy cookbook authors over the years. Working with Kristine Kidd has been one of my favorite experiences.

Our first collaboration, Weeknight Fresh & Fast, was a huge success. But when I started talking to Kristine about writing another book, I discovered that she had shifted to a gluten-free lifestyle. I knew I wanted to share more of her quick-and-easy farmers’ market-inspired recipes and—with the increased awareness around gluten-free lifestyles these days—a book on easy, gluten-free recipes seemed like a great extension of her vibrant, yet practical approach to meal preparation. The result is Weeknight Gluten Free, which, if you didn’t see those words “gluten free” in the title, you might not guess from the recipes inside that there was anything missing.

After wrapping the book project, I sat down with Kristine to find our more about the new eating and living approach of this author, blogger, and former magazine food editor.

Recently you made a big change to embrace a gluten-free lifestyle. How did this come about?

I was diagnosed with celiac disease as an infant. At that time, my mother was told that if she kept me completely gluten free for three years I would be cured. Of course, we now know that is not the case, but I was brought up with that understanding. I have had digestive issues my entire life, but then my symptoms became torturous about two-and-a-half years ago. In addition, I became bloated every time I ate, my joints started aching, I was fatigued all the time, and I was losing weight even though I was eating a quantity of dark chocolate every day to boost my energy. My body was sending clear messages that I needed to make changes.

What changes did you notice after switching to a gluten-free diet?
Within a few days of giving up gluten, my symptoms started subsiding, and my health improved every week I kept to the diet. After a few months my full energy returned. An added bonus: my lactose intolerance cleared up, and I can enjoy cheese again. I never had any resentment because I feel so much better.

What has been the hardest part of this new eating and living plan?
Eating in restaurants and keeping my food at home completely free of gluten when family members eat wheat products. Restaurants are still a challenge, and I have learned to select them very carefully. But home ended up being easy—I keep our kitchen completely gluten free. My husband can eat all the gluten he likes at meals away from the house, and, surprisingly, he never notices anything is missing from the fresh, gluten-free meals I prepare.

What has most surprised you about living gluten free?
I feel no sense of deprivation. I was determined to eat as well as I always had—fresh, healthy, farmers’ market-inspired food. Being interested in everything about food and cooking, I looked on this new approach as an intriguing project and spent a year of glorious experimentation in my kitchen. I wanted to share my success with others, and that led to the cookbook.

You write about the challenges of going to parties when you are eating gluten free. Can you share some of your coping strategies?
At first I was uncomfortable asking my friends to change their menus for me. Then I realized I could offer to bring a substantial dish to the party; this allows the host to make one less item, provides plenty for me to eat, and supplies more for the guests to enjoy. A few easily transportable dishes in the book are: Quinoa Tabbouleh; White Bean, Tuna, Fennel, and Olive Salad; Indian-Style Chickpea Salad; and Vegetable and Olive Platter with White Bean Hummus.

Many of our readers are looking for quick and easy dinner ideas. What are your top five tips for cooking gluten-free on weeknight? 
1. Focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients and whole foods. Check out local farmers’ markets or grocery stores with excellent produce sections for inspiration and the tastiest ingredients around, they need much less time to prepare because they are already amazingly delicious. Farmer’s market produce will often keep for a week—meaning you only need to shop once.

2. Keep your pantry stocked with gluten-free staples such as pastas, chickpeas, white beans, cornmeal, quinoa, corn tortillas, prepared broths, canned tomatoes, herbs and spices, and a tasty extra-virgin olive oil. Then you can make dinner without stopping at a store on the way home.

3. Cook large quantities, and enjoy the same dish twice. Or toss leftovers with cooked rice, quinoa, or gluten-free pasta flavored with a bold vinaigrette or simple sauce.

4. Heat extra meat and/or vegetables in a skillet and then fold into corn tortillas for quick tacos.

5. Make a hearty soup once a week, using up odds and ends in the refrigerator, and adding canned beans, rice, or gluten-free pasta for substance. You’ll probably have enough for two meals.

And one bonus thought: Focus on the fragrance, flavors, and textures of the ingredients while they cook, and on how great you feel rather than on what you can’t have. Treat yourself with in-season fruit and quality dark chocolate. I never miss my one-ounce daily dose of dark chocolate.

I love your blog. How has your blogging evolved since changing your lifestyle and writing this book?
My blog is now focused on helping people enjoy gluten-free eating. I include recipes I am excited about, food products I discover, cookbooks, and helpful blogs. I plan on talking about restaurants that were able to accommodate my gluten-free needs, and items that assist in the gluten-free kitchen. I am happy that the blog now has a better focus, and that I can share my successes with readers.

Recipe and still life photos by Kate Sears. Author photo by Steve Peck.