Luscious and savory

Featured: Luscious and savory

Luscious and savory

It was a little while back that Tara Reece found out she had Celiac’s disease, gluten-intolerance, Non-tropical sprue, or Celiac Sprue.

Story: Bridget Broihahn

Photos: Bridget Broihahn and Tara Reece

It was a little while back that Tara Reece found out she had Celiac’s disease, gluten-intolerance, Non-tropical sprue, or Celiac Sprue. The names for this disease go on and on, just like the list of foods that Tara can no longer have if she wants to be well. When I found this out in the News-Gazette Media Garden Room, where we all have our break from being media-folk, I was quite surprised.

Tara pointed to her cake, “Go ahead and try it. It’s yummy,” she said. I took a bite. Oh my, my, my! “It’s gluten-free,” she said. Tara has one of those great, her-whole-face-smiles-when-she-smiles grins.

We struck up a conversation, and she told me of her infliction. Many people incorrectly think the GF phenomenon is a crazy fad. There are people who need to be on a strict GF diet or they can get very sick: that means certified GF ingredients, prepared in a certified GF area, cooked, served and stored in certified GF kitchen ware. How food is prepared is tantamount to a healthy person with Celiac’s disease, as much as the ingredients being GF.

Let’s get cooking. The main thing to remember about gluten is that it is sticky and holds ingredients together. Cooking is chemistry, after all, and some ingredients just perform better in cooking than others. So, what to do?

“I use xanthan gum a lot. I also reconfigure the fat-to-flour ratio. It doesn’t have to be as high as with gluten-containing flour. Plus, I use almond flour for texture and flavor. It’s healthier, too. I use Bob’s Red Mill brand,” Tara said.

Her longtime partner, Randy Miller, is one of those tough-looking guys. As soon as he’s in the kitchen, however, the nurturing side of this at-home chef comes out. He’s dedicated their home to being GF, even if it means he cannot have products like wheat bread and wheat pasta.

“We find different products in several places. Rural King has great GF spices. They’re trustworthy. Wal-Mart and Schnucks both have good GF sections,” Randy said as he sliced the pork loin with great care.

They prepared pork loin roulade, bacon-wrapped asparagus, mashed potatoes and strawberry pie at Tara’s grandparent’s house in Mahomet. Grandma Barbara and Grandpa Ron Young were very excited to eat. “These two can cook! You are in for a treat,” Barbara said.

I sat and waited. This is a really great part of my being an editor, isn’t it? I wish you could smell this meal cooking. Prepare it yourself, and let me know how you enjoyed it!

Prepare in this order as listed:

Strawberry Pie


1 cup Almond Flour

1 cup Gluten free flour “I use Bobs Red Mill 1to1,” Tara said.

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

2tablespoon cold butter

1 egg

¼ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup almond milk-regular milk, or water can be substituted

Grease a 9-inch pie dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Mix all dry ingredients together, use a fork or pastry cutter to cut in butter to the dry mix until butter looks pea sized.

Beat egg and vanilla together and mix into crust. If the crust is too dry sprinkle in some almond milk a little at a time until crust comes together.

Press crust into pie dish, and then use a fork to poke ventilation holes on bottom and the side, cook in oven 12 to 14 minutes or until the crust is slightly brown. Cool completely before adding the filling.


1 pound frozen strawberries

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons corn starch

1 lemon

Zest lemon put one-half of the zest into a medium-heat saucepan with the strawberries and sugar. Cook down until strawberries are soft and then mash. Juice the lemon. Mix the lemon and corn starch together and make a slurry. *If the lemon does not give off much juice (you will need about one-fourth cup) ad water or orange juice. Poor into the strawberry mash and cook on medium until mixture thickens stirring constantly.

TIP: Think of a slurry as almost the opposite of a roux. A roux is cooked, uses fat, and is added at the beginning of cooking. In comparison, a slurry is uncooked, needs no fat, and is added at the end of cooking.

*Spoon test- “I use the spoon test to see if the mixture has thickened enough. I dip a spoon into the compote then I run my finger in a line on the back of the spoon if the line stay separated the mixture has thickened enough, if it goes back together cook more. Additional slurry may be needed if the mixture is not thickening,” Tara said.

Cream Cheese mixture

4 ounces cream cheese softened

½ cup powdered sugar

Zest of 1/2 lemon

Almond milk as needed

Cream together cream cheese, powdered sugar and zest. Add almond milk if the mixture is not coming together until it is smooth.

Use spatula to spread on bottom and sides of cooled pie crust.


2 pounds of fresh strawberries sliced

Place sliced strawberries onto the pie crust and poor the compote mixture over them, and refrigerate until set about an hour.


Pork loin 3.5 pounds

2 carrots

1 clove garlic

¼ cup chopped onion

10 ounces frozen spinach

6-8 pieces thin sliced deli ham

6 thin slices provolone cheese

Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel and dice carrots, garlic and onion. Place carrots in hot saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil until they soften. Then add garlic and onion, sauté till onion is soft and translucent. Thaw frozen spinach in warm water, squeeze excess water out of the spinach, and then place in with the carrot, garlic and onion until warm. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set this aside for later.

“Roulading” (I made that word up, Randy said) the pork loin: Place loin on cutting board and with a sharp knife start cutting ¼ to ½ inch above the bottom of loin.  Stop with ½ inch of pork left. Open loin like a book, and make another cut bisecting thicker side of the loin. Open that flap and trim off uneven front and back making it easy to stuff and roll.

Spread Dijon mustard on inside of the loin, using a couple of tablespoons enough to cover. Then layer ham then cheese then the spinach filling over the loin and roll.  Secure the roulade with butchers twine or toothpicks.  Cook in oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the internal temperature of the pork is 150 degrees and let rest 5 to 10 minutes on the counter before cutting.

Mashed Potatoes

8 small potatoes (or 4 large)

6 tablespoons butter

½ cup grated parmesan

¼ cup sour cream

½ cup milk-add more milk if necessary

Salt and pepper to taste

Peel potatoes and cut into smaller similar sized pieces, place potatoes in a pot filled with cold water so that the potatoes are just covered. Bring to a boil until potatoes are “fork tender” and drain.

(Tara’s tip: Use cold water to cover the potatoes. They will cook more uniformly.)

In a bowl add butter, parmesan and milk. Add hot potatoes and mash them with a potato masher. Add sour cream and salt and pepper.  Taste the mashed potatoes if they need more of the above ingredients add them to your satisfaction.

Editor’s note: I make very tasty mashed potatoes. These beat mine, hands down.




Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Cover baking sheet with foil. Tooth pick together 4 small asparagus and wrap with ½ slice of bacon, do this to as many bundles you desire.  Place on baking sheet, salt and pepper, plus drizzle with olive oil. Cook in oven until tender-but not mushy-for 8-10 minutes.