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Overcoming Celiac Disease with Sisters Sans Gluten

Originally from Southern Oregon, sisters Amelia and Kendra are a pair of gluten-free recipe creators with an eye for food photography. Amelia and Kendra are the owners of their successful food blog, Sister Sans Gluten where they share all of their mouth-watering and eye-catching creations.

We virtually sat down with the two sisters to discuss everything from living with Celiac Disease to incorporating a gluten-free lifestyle, favorite gluten-free recipes, and exciting plans for the future! For all things delicious and gluten-free, be sure to check out their blog, recipes and social platforms (linked at the end).

 

Sisters San Gluten

What is celiac disease?

Amelia: Essentially, it’s an autoimmune disease (often hereditary) that causes your body to attack itself (primarily in the digestive track) when you consume gluten. Gluten is a protein (not protein, a protein) found in wheat, rhy, barley, and sometimes oats (often processed in the same facilities as the other three). Because gluten is a protein, it’s SUPER tiny, which means you can’t “just have a taste” or “just take off the croutons” – even the smallest crumb can cause your body to react. Common reactions include horrible stomach and intestinal pain, diarrhea, brain fog, fatigue, for DAYS. Because it triggers an immune response, it lasts longer than say a single stomach ache.

Kendra: As Celiac progresses, the little villi that line the small intestines are corroded away. The first level of corrosion is usually the inability to digest dairy, or lactose intolerance. Your gut literally can’t digest what you are eating and the gluten you put into your body just makes it worse and worse. It’s easy to live without gluten nowadays though. Companies tend to be very good at marking their products gluten-free.

What can you eat with celiac disease?

Amelia: Anything gluten-free! So actually a lot of stuff – just nothing with wheat, rye, or barley which can seem like a lot. Meat, veggies, fruits, dairy, rice, quinoa, corn, gluten-free oats, teff, millet, potatoes, soy products (some soy sauces contain wheat though), sugar, etc. 

Kendra: You have to be careful eating out though. A lot of pre-made sauces/seasonings/salad dressings have hidden gluten that is being used as a thickener or filler. It’s very easy to eat healthily, I’d say. If you can’t eat the gluten in fast food or the food fried in the same oil as gluten-ful food, then it’s easier to decline and make healthier choices!

Gluten-Free chocolate chip cookies

When did your gluten-free journey begin?

Amelia: Mine began 17 years ago when I was 11 years old – in 6th grade. I had been having stomach aches since I was five (they diagnosed me with lactose intolerance at the time which is a common side effect of undiagnosed Celiac), and it finally got to a point where I wasn’t growing, wasn’t gaining weight, and still have tons of digestive issues. It took months of our mom hounding doctors and gastroenterologists to finally get them to test for Celiac. Once we realized that was it, I immediately started a gluten-free diet and have been fine ever since!

Kendra: As her sister, and living in the same house growing up, when I ate at home it would be gluten-free. However, my Celiac didn’t fully express itself (gene) until my second year of high school. I did, however, have lactose intolerance for most of my preteen and teen years leading up to it.

If any, what are some obstacles you’ve had to overcome Celiac?

Amelia: Traveling was a hard one at first – let alone finding gluten-free foods in local grocery stores and restaurants. It’s always tricky trying to ask/communicate that you’re gluten-free when you don’t speak the same language (traveling in Japan was really tricky but thankfully I had friends with me who could translate!). Even traveling in the US it can be hard – the west coast probably has the highest awareness about gluten-free so you’ll find lots of restaurants/stores that have gluten-free safe food, and tons of people who already know what gluten-free means.

Kendra: Traveling, yeah, and just eating out, if there’s nothing you can eat on the menu, the best you can have is a mediocre house salad. In the past few years though, there has been such an uprising of gluten-free restaurants or gluten-free options at restaurants. A lot of the time now, we even plan our trip around the gluten-free restaurants we want to go to!

sisters san gluten

Gluten-Free BLM Chocolate Shortbread by Sisters Sans Gluten

Walk us through a typical day, what you make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Amelia: I’m a big tea drinker so I always start with a big mug of English Breakfast, Earl Grey, or other amazing black teas (recently found a small shop called Just Add Honey that sells new blends – so good!). For food, I typically go for scrambled eggs with spinach or a yogurt+kefir+berry smoothie. Lunch might be a cobb salad (one of my favorites), tacos (there’s a great taqueria below my apartment), or leftovers from dinner. Snacks might be nuts, cottage cheese, cheese on toast, berries, sliced turkey, or a pb&j (on gluten-free bread). Dinner might be baked salmon and asparagus, chicken with carrots and broccoli, or pork chops and pinto beans.

Kendra: Really easy to start off the day with some sort of protein which will give me that energy boost for the day. I usually go with eggs or a piece of fish, sometimes throw some sausages in there. And of course a large mug of coffee. Lunch is usually snacking; almond butter, peanut butter with a banana, or apple. I tend to top the day off with an early dinner, and we can get really crazy with the recipes here. Soups, huge salads, poultry/beef/pork/fish dishes. Really they mainly consist of a protein and one or two vegetables.

Sisters San Gluten

What is it like growing up in Southern Oregon while following a gluten-free diet?

Amelia: Back in 2004 when I was first diagnosed it was a total gluten-free-food dessert (as was most of the US at the time). It took a lot of talking with our grocery store manager to special order new gf products and meant essentially re-learning how to cook and bake at home (huge shout out to our mom who created TONS of recipes and redid our entire pantry/fridge). Now, there are tons of gluten-free options both in restaurants and stores in the area! I live in San Francisco now and there are also a bunch of safe restaurants and stores here and tons of awareness which makes it all easier.

Kendra: Growing up and when Amelia first got diagnosed, we lived in a very small town in a small valley that didn’t have a lot of options. Our mom kind of frantically took charge and worked with the “Natural” department of our local supermarket to order what gluten-free products were actually being made back in 2004 (which wasn’t a lot). Thankfully our mother is a fabulous cook (she taught us the basics!) and learned to make a lot of the things we suddenly couldn’t eat.

gluten-free cake

When it comes to baking and cooking, who are your inspirations?

Amelia: Definitely Kendra and my mom – we’re constantly coming up with recipes and getting creative but they’re my main inspiration. I also get so much inspiration from fellow recipe developers and food bloggers/friends in the Instagram foodie community – it’s so key to constantly find a new inspiration! I’m always excited to try recipes for baked goods and dishes that I’ve never tried (a friend recently introduced me to a Vietnamese honeycomb cake that’s amazing and naturally gluten-free). I do always find classic and contemporary French pastry inspiring, as well as Mexican, Central American, Colombian, Ecuadoran, Peruvian, and Brazilian bakes and flavors (love tres leches, pupusas, tacos, arepas, empanadas verdes, and pão de queijo), and recently fell in love with pandan and ube and have been figuring out new recipes to use either flavor like in our ube angel food cake.

Kendra: I love to scroll through Pinterest and if I see a recipe that I’d like to eat I will try to convert it to gluten-free. A lot of the time it works out really easily, but sometimes it calls for experimentation. I love of course the traditional French pastries, but also the post-modern Japanese and Korean pastries that do more with gelatin! Amelia gives me inspiration through her photography and through the things she brings back to try from her travels.

https://simplydelish.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/SSG5-640x480.jpg

What is your favorite recipe(s) to create?

A: Been really into new flavor combinations for layer cakes! Experimenting with different cake textures and flavors, different fillings/layers, and frostings (whipped ganache is one of my new favorites). I’ve also recently found an appreciation for good white chocolate and tried caramelizing it for the first time – highly recommend it! Made some incredible caramelized white chocolate blondies that were divine.

K: Cookies. For gluten-free, if you have a good base recipe, you can add literally anything to it and create a new cookie. I also bought a donut pan recently and it’s been fun creating recipes for that.

gluten free chocolate donuts

What impact has Simply Delish Desserts made in your life?

Amelia: I’ve been trying to eat less sugar (a little challenging given our proclivity for baking), so having puddings and jels that are sugar-free has been amazing. The boxed jel mixes are particularly helpful in baking because you can use them in pies, any gelatin desserts like panna cotta, tarts, etc. We’ve loved the added challenge of figuring out exciting ways to use a new product and it’s awesome to not have to worry about checking if all the flavors are gluten-free!

Kendra: I can finally eat instant pudding without deeply regretting my life choices later! As someone who is lactose intolerant, the absolute annoyance that would come when milk alternatives wouldn’t work with instant pudding was huge. I used to have to make pudding on the stove with tons of corn starch for it to work.

What is your favorite Simply Delish flavor?

Amelia: The banana pudding! Kendra used it to whip up a “southern” banana pudding with gluten-free ‘nilla wafers and it was SO good. Side story – Kendra and I have loved boxed pudding since we can remember. When we went on camping trips as kids we’d always bring a few boxes of pudding mixes and make them for desserts next to the campfire – hands-down better than s’mores haha. So, having a guaranteed gluten-free/dairy-free option now with Simply Delish is incredible.

Kendra: Chocolate pudding. Full stop. Although I do love me a good jello, so out of the jel mixes, probably strawberry or peach.

What advice do you have for others who follow a gluten-free diet/lifestyle due to Celiac Disease?

Amelia: Don’t be afraid to try gluten-free baking at home! It can seem daunting because there are a bunch of different flours you can use in combination to replace wheat flour, but there are tons of recipes (shameless plug – we’ve got a ton) that will walk you through it and you’ll be able to create incredible baked goods that don’t “taste gluten-free” – even your non-celiac friends will never know it’s gluten-free!

Kendra: Eating is as simple as Google. If you want to see if something is made gluten-free, google it. I guarantee now that you will be able to find it somewhere online if you can’t in-store. Also, if you want to make things at home just get yourself a good flour mix that you can substitute cup for cup in a recipe and you’ll be set. The one thing to look out for is cross-contamination. This can trip you up when you thought you were safe, always ask about it when you eat out, and if you see on the label of a product “Made in the same facility as wheat” that is cross-contamination.

SISTER SANS GLUTEN

What are some future goals you’d like to accomplish?

Amelia: I really want to finally learn how to make French macarons – they’re naturally gluten-free (almond flour-based), but they seem so temperamental. Also, drafting and publishing a cookbook with Kendra as our first Sisters Sans Gluten written product! It’ll be a couple of years but we’ll get there. Aside from baking – I’m starting a Ph.D. program at Oxford this fall so my side goal is convincing Kendra to move to the UK with me and we’ll travel around Britain trying all of the gluten-free bakeries and restaurants we can find.

Kendra: Croissants, also making my own puff pastry. Those layered, flaky, baked things. Also, yes, eating our way across the European continent.

Check out these links!👇

Sisters Sans Gluten >> Instagram
Sisters Sans Gluten >> Facebook
Sisters Sans Gluten >> Pinterest
Sisters Sans Gluten >> YouTube
Simply Delish >> 5 Tips on Living with Celiac Disease
Simply Delish >> What is Celiac Disease? 

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