Friends get excited when Melissa “Mimi” Rogers bakes for them. They often put in special request for birthday cakes. But by tasting, you’d never know that Rogers bakes exclusively gluten free foods. She learned the kitchen arts from her grandmother. “My grandma was a cook all her life. She started cooking at a restaurant when she was 14. I used to watch her cook from scratch.”
It took a period of mysterious illness for a doctor to help Rogers discover she has celiac disease. That meant gluten, the common substance found in wheat, rye and barley, had been triggering an autoimmune reaction in her intestine and preventing her from properly absorbing nutrients. The East Tennessee mom eventually found out that two of her sons also had celiac, which can run in families. Coping with celiac not only meant the Rogers family would start reading labels closely, but that Mom’s abilities in the kitchen would become appreciated more than ever.
Now the entire family eats gluten free food in the home, even the husband and son who don’t share the disease, because some family members are so sensitive that even cross-contamination could make them ill. “It’s very socially isolating,” shared Rogers, sometimes sad that her sons can’t all go out with friends to any typical restaurant. Instead of focusing on what they can’t do, Rogers has become so innovative with her gluten-free home cooking that her sons’ friends prefer gathering at their house to eat. The family menu includes foods popular with teens like pizza, corndogs and baked goods. “I try to make things that taste good but that are also affordable,” shared Rogers.
During my visit, Rogers made homemade pumpkin muffins with textured topping. They tasted fabulous and had a moist cake texture, not dry. She even explained that they were vegan, made without eggs or dairy. Because she prides herself in recipe development, this proud baker would not share the exact mix of her top secret gluten-free custom flour with me. But she did share some tips on cooking gluten free. We’ll share those here tomorrow.
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