Friday, January 18, 2008

Gluten-Free Dessert Recipes Testimonial

A Testimonial Gives me Encouragement....
If you want to get right to the reader testimonial I posted, scroll down this page a bit. Or, feel free to first read my long-winded thoughts related to this, starting here :)

I'll admit, sometimes I wonder if all the effort creating my Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Gourmet Desserts book was worth it. My wife and I invested a couple years in developing that book, but unless people just "happen to find the book" on the Internet or find it in a few retail stores in Ohio, sadly they will never know it exists. We don't advertise anywhere (perhaps we should) and this prevents many people from ever "finding" or "knowing about" our book.

We made the choice not to sell the book on Amazon (update: though, we did end up selling a Kindle version there), Borders or Barnes & Nobles, etc.;
choosing instead to offer it for sale online and direct via my Gluten-Free Desserts website, where I could offer people a money-back satisfaction-guarantee on the print-edition to show them how serious I was about the quality of the gluten-free recipes and desserts. With relatively low sales volume, I certainly wonder at times if I have made the right choice. But, when buyers take the time to write a testimonial, like the one I received earlier this week, it certainly encourages me greatly.

I have always told my wife a few times that we are in a "Catch-22" of sorts - people can't find our glutenfree recipes book because people haven't found our book. Meaning, we have to reach "critical mass" and gain public awareness of how good the book and the recipes really are, and this takes having enough people using the book and baking the gluten-free desserts and telling others how wonderful and outstanding they are to get others to find our book.

The Challenge...
Many existing Celiac sufferers already own "a lot" of gluten-free cookbooks and are skeptical at buying "yet another" book. How do I convince this group that they really can enjoy cakes and desserts as good as those everyone around them eats - the ones with wheat, that is! All I can simply say to you, if you are one of these "many books already" type is: how many other gluten-free cookbooks offer a money-back satisfaction guarantee??

There is a reason you typically won't find such a guarantee, and I'll be quite frank and honest here, and say what you all know to be true: most gluten-free recipe books produce foods that are just plain bad or "OK" at best! (sure, there are exceptions, but overwhelmingly this is the experience I have had with other books, and I have repeatedly and frequently heard others having the same experience - especially in regards to other dessert books and bread books and the "tough to make right as glutenfree" recipes).

I'm not going to try starting some flame-war here on the Gluten-Free Blog about what GF books are good and what are bad or anything else (though I know some will feel compelled to post comments about how a particular book is really good, or really awful, anyhow). Instead, I just want it to be known, that it is a fact (I stand by "fact" here - not just an opinion), that many gluten-free recipes books are sadly lacking in quality - recipe quality, and even overall book quality (they tend not to be what you'd expect to find in a modern bookstore).

So, given this, how do I convince people that are already skeptical about the quality of gluten-free cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, and other dessert recipes, to try yet another book!? Answer: I cannot convince anyone. I can only say what I know to be true: the cakes produced from the recipes in our books have won baking contests (against "real" cakes), and all the recipes were taste-tested using the entire population (i.e., people that eat wheat - not just GF / Celiac persons).

The feedback from people that have purchased our book and tried our recipes has been wonderful! But, that won't convince anyone else to get the book for themselves. Only by word-of-mouth (unless I get lucky enough to have some major magazine or TV show - Oprah or The View or something perhaps - do a favorable book review for me), will others find out what they are missing. The best I can do is post testimonials from some people that have tried our book, and let you see what they are saying and thinking about our product.

The Wonderful Book Testimonial I Received this Week
Here it is.

And, yes, this gave me a wonderful shot of encouragement regarding
my Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Gourmet Desserts book. A buyer named Kelly emailed the following to me within just a week after obtaining our book, and from the sounds of it, it was a busy week of baking gluten-free desserts!

I bought your book last week and spent most of yesterday trying out recipes. The peanut butter pie is terrific! My pie crust making needs some adjustments, but for a first attempt, I am pleased. The filling is delicious! And it's gluten free!! WOW! I also made the peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, the chocolate chip cookies, and the double chocolate cookies with caramel bits. (In the chocolate chip recipe, I switched the cornstarch for tapioca (I am corn intolerant too) but resolved to tweak it a bit more next time, perhaps add part mesquite/part tapioca instead of all tapioca. My husband and sons loved everything, though!
So nice to see them smiling after eating a treat, instead of guzzling down a quart of milk to get their saliva going again!

Yours is the first book that really takes taste to the next level. Our whole family deals with celiac disease and multiple food allergies, and our youngest son was just diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes just before Halloween. We've waded through some pretty awful gluten free meals and desserts in the past.... but things are looking up! I've bought dozens of cook books but your book is definitely the best! I can't wait to try the rest of the recipes!
I offer one suggestion for the next book: it would be absolutely wonderful if you added nutrition information for each recipe, especially a carb count. That would really help out with insulin adjustments.

Well, it's [now] Tuesday and the chocolate caramel cookies I made Sunday night are already completely gone! Tell your wife my husband is a dentist and he's pretty darn nervous about the delicious sweets proliferating in our household since the purchase of your dessert book! My son (with Type1 Diabetes), made me figure his dinner insulin last night to include a piece of the peanut butter pie and a chocolate caramel cookie! And tho my husband frowned a bit, he broke into a grin and dug into the dessert plate himself -- it's been a long time since dessert tasted so good!

I used to bake (before celiac) all our breads and treats, and everything just came to a halt suddenly when we were diagnosed. I immediately tacked on a few extra allergies for myself, which was overwhelming. For awhile I just quit cooking "creatively" and bought mixes and boxes that were "safe". I was afraid I'd hurt my family accidentally, I guess. For so long, we ate for "fuel", not for taste. When Hunter [my son] ended up with diabetes last fall, I thought "I HAVE to start baking and cooking "REAL" food again. No more bland mixes. I have to find a way to get back some sense of normalcy for our family, especially Hunter."
My husband, who paid his way through college and med school working as a bar tender and chef, jumped in to offer help researching whole food dinners. (gluten free/ corn free /soy free /potato free /diabetic-safe - whew!) I will never forget the first dinner he brought to the table - eating it, I was so stunned I could barely chew. Tears poured down my cheeks. I cannot express how blissful it felt to eat that meal. I had completely forgotten how joyous! a delicious dinner with family and friends could be. Right after that, I met another woman (with a celiac/diabetic son too) who gave me a bag of her homemade cookies. Her cookies were so good compared to the ones I'd been buying...

I threw all our boxed versions out, and inspired by her efforts, bought every gluten free dessert book I could find and started experimenting. That was last Fall. There have been a few successes, but most of the good things came simply from experimenting with and converting my old favorite recipes. Not so much from my immense new collection of recipe books. Oh, some were "okay" and definitely better than the boxed items.... but none were spectacular. (I didn't have tears pouring down my face)

You and your wife, though,... your dessert recipes are different!! They are spectacular! And I can't wait to try the rest of them! Most celiacs (or those on a gluten free diet anyway) have gotten so used to mediocrity... and it doesn't have to be that way! NO MORE MEDIOCRITY! With a little extra time and effort, gluten free can be extraordinary.... maybe even better than wheat - maybe even (am I really saying this?) a blessing in disguise!!

And to think I was scolding myself: "Kel, OF ALL THINGS - YOU DO NOT NEED yet ANOTHER GLUTEN FREE DESSERT BOOK!" Funny how life is never quite what you expect!!

Thanks to you and your family, (and make sure you let me know when the new book is available!)
Warm regards,
Kelly S.

After I replied to Kelly, thanking her for her wonderfully kind feedback and letting her know that the upcoming (whenever I can find time to finish it) Biscotti and Scones book would probably be released as a free "E-Book", she emailed me back and said:

Maybe you guys should publish your second book. Just based on the recipes I tried Sunday [from your Gluten-Free Gourmet Desserts Book], I couldn't wait to get put on your alert list for the biscotti / scones book. I'm sure I can stir up some interest and word of mouth for you.
Perhaps she is right, but I am more interested in just getting these recipes out to people suffering from Coeliac / Celiac Disease, and/or anyone else living a gluten-free diet or wheat-free diet. So, plans are to still release the next book for free (in E-Book form), and certainly as such for those who have my first book.

Kelly, thank you so much for your incredibly kind (and detailed) feedback! You can't even start to imagine how much that brightened my day, and how much it made my wife happy to know that her gluten-free baking and recipe efforts are appreciated.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Less Waste = Smaller Waist Diet

I have been working on developing my thoughts about the concept of a "Less-Waste, Smaller Waist Diet" for a while. This isn't just a gluten-free diet or Celiac Disease diet concept, but a diet that can fit into anyone's life, presuming they are willing to give it a try. And, I have been putting it into practice for quite a few months now.

Basically the concept is that if what you eat produces little or no (non-compostable) waste, then you are likely to be eating a much healthier diet. And, a healthier diet will likely keep the waistline in check through reduced calorie and fat intake.

Hopefully you already compost your organic / biodegradable waste when at all possible, and are used to the concept. If not, here's a quote from the WorldWise definition of compostable:
A product that is "compostable" is one that can be placed into a composition of decaying biodegradable materials, and eventually turn into a nutrient-rich material.
The Proposed Diet / Concept
So, let's get started with what fits into this Less-Waste, Less-Waist (or Smaller-Waist) diet, with a focus on what will also clearly fit within the confines of the Gluten-Free Diet.

I've been ranking food choices
in order of which has the optimal health/waste ratio (optimal foods at beginning of list show below, then decreasingly suitable foods as you move down the list), and I've also considered the challenges to each:
  1. Home-Grown Fresh Vegetables and Fruit and Herbs. Not only do you typically consume a large portion of the fruit or vegetable eaten, but anything left over is fully compostable organic waste. This category is most certainly "safe" from a gluten-free standpoint, and, you can even make your own Fruit Juices (and/or vegetable juices).

    Of course, this food group is relatively low in calories and high in fiber and nutrients - great for minimizing that waist! In warmer climates, you may be lucky enough to grow Avocados and Olives too, which will add healthy oils to the mix! (sadly, that's not an option here in Ohio)

    (Large) Challenge: many of us may not have space to grow enough to eat, even if we were to convert our lawns to gardens. And, for those of us in Northern States, our growing season is quite limited. And, even if we can grow enough of our own gluten-free diet foods, we can freeze some for later, but this requires electricity to keep them frozen for long periods of time.

  2. Home-Grown Tree nuts - in many parts of the country, it is possible to produce tree nuts with heart-healthy Omega 3's (like Walnuts, and to a lesser degree Almonds and Pecans), and the trees don't need quite the attention a garden would, and can coexist with your grass yard. Nuts are rather easy to harvest and store (aside from competition from squirrels!), and can be turned into a great gluten-free baking ingredient (nut meals) too!

    (Large) Challenge: again, growing acreage is a problem. Also, if you don't have established trees, this is a long-term investment / commitment proposition.

  3. The above, but purchased from a farmer or retailer with minimal packaging (none if possible). Focus on local sources first if possible, and organic if possible and affordable - since, local sources require less energy-waste for transportation, and organic growing methods should minimize the negative environmental impact of petroleum-based fertilizers.

    Challenge: in Northern regions and other inhospitable growing-zones, year-round supply of locally or regionally sourced items it going to be rough, and organic options are likely to be even more difficult to find and probably more expensive.

  4. Whole Grains and flours - gluten-free grains like Quinoa, Sorghum, Rice, Corn, Millet, Buckwheat, Teff, etc., are all fine in our diets, especially in their least processed form that offers the most health benefits for us (and for our waists, blood-sugar levels, gastrointestinal tracts, and more), and least wasteful overall. Any leftovers that will not be consumed are also fully compostable.

    Challenge: to keep waste down, minimizing packaging and transportation are important, but can be a difficult task when there are minimal certified gluten-free diet options available.

  5. Dairy products and meats. This is where my "less waste" objective really starts meeting substantial challenges. Fact is, you could live on just the items early in this list - meaning: vegans manage to live just fine (sure, there are vitamin and nutrient-balance challenges, but it can be done). Just like the diet recommendations from the American Heart Association and others, keeping consumption of meat and dairy items to a minimum is better for you. Likewise, it is less wasteful overall.

    Meat is especially wasteful from an environmental standpoint. It takes many pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat. I've heard that a pound of chicken requires 3 pounds of feed to produce, pork = 5#, and beef = 8# feed per pound of meat. And, it's nearly a given that any meat and milk products you consume have also required large amounts of energy to produce, keep cool, and transport.

    Plus, this food group is bound to be packaged in non-recyclables in many cases. I often see meats packaged in Styrofoam and plastic-wrap. And, though you could (theoretically) compost the leftover organic material, it is generally not recommended as it attracts rodents and can perhaps even spread disease. So, on many accounts, it's not a good fit for my proposed diet.

    But, I understand that these items are important to many diets. I for one enjoy dairy products a lot! I love my gluten-free cheesecakes, flan, custard, puddings, tapioca, and all sorts of cakes, pies, cookies, and so forth that contain dairy products like butter. I know that my less-waist diet is bumping up against a strong, nearly instinctual drive for me to eat these tasty foods :)

    Challenge: to keep waste down, minimizing packaging and transportation are important. See if you can find regionally produced products. And, see if you can purchase products (like milk) in recyclable plastics and be sure to recycle them. Also, for the waist-reduction side of the equation, try to keep the servings of these items down in relation to other more healthful (and less wasteful, less waistful) options.

  6. Processed and Packaged foods and drinks: this category tends to be rough on the waistline and on the waist-line. Gluten-free items or not, most packaged foods (by definition) are going to have packaging that may well not be recyclable. In addition, the "processed" factor implies less "Whole Foods" and more refined carbohydrates (like high-fructose corn sweeteners and starches like potato starch, corn starch, etc.). In addition, the chance of gluten entering the picture always increases the more steps down this diet-prospects list we go.

    Challenge: again, try to minimize consumption of processed foods and reduce non-recyclable packaging. A smaller waist may result!
This diet is very much in line with modern guidelines for diets that help improve your health by reducing sodium intake, refined carbohydrate intake, and the like, which should minimize the likelihood of diabetes, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and colon-cancer (to name a few conditions whose incidence can be statistically reduced through proper diet). In addition, I'm trying to target the environmental waste side of the equation while I'm at it, and that works rather well in theory here.

Working from the top-priority diet items on downward in my list, the gluten-free adherence aspect of the diet goes from easiest to most difficult too, which is an interesting and useful correlation.

There are challenges certainly.
I know for a fact I will not eat only what I "should", but will also include what I enjoy as well. But, I am trying to focus on minimized packaging and maximized recycling where possible - though not directly impacting the waistline, this still fits with my "less waste" portion of the diet. I take my reusable canvas bags to the stores all the time now, and bypass all those paper and plastic bags at the checkout. And, I compost everything I can - to reduce the waste-stream that would otherwise be incurring further transportation costs and energy-use to get it to the dump.

Now, the Diet Results
Both my waist, and my waste, have been reduced considerably since I have focused on this approach! I'm gluten-free, and feeling healthy. As with any diet approach, a nice dose of exercise always fits into the plans nicely too, and is recommended.

Hope you find this useful!