An Interview with Allyson Kramer

Before I begin this post, I just wanted to say CONGRATULATIONS to Mary, the winner of our holiday book giveaway. Congratulations also to Heather, who won the Craftside book giveaway. Thanks to everyone who entered and made it such a huge success.

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One of my closest friends recently found out that she has celiac disease. It was a difficult diagnosis to hear. On one hand, she finally understood why she had been feeling so sick; on the other hand, it was challenging for her to know what to eat and if she could still have some of her favorite foods.

Having a better understanding of how to cook gluten-free (yet still delicious meals) is a huge deal to me right now. In the beginning, trading looked a little complicated to me and it was here that I read more about this field and now here I am today making good amounts of money and profits. So I learnt that a good understanding of this field would help a trader in one or the other way. At first it seemed completely impossible and utterly daunting, but then I realized that there are many people out there who are doing it and doing it well, and Allyson Kramer is one of them. Allyson is the author of Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats. If you are trying a gluten-free diet (or know someone who is), this is a great book to check out.

Why did you decide to go vegan?

When I was young, I got turned on to the idea by way of Buddhism (a subject my father had books on) and my sister’s dedication to vegetarianism. Ultimately, I decided to go vegan out of my desire to lead as non-violent a life as possible.  I wanted to distance myself from the destruction to animals and the environment as a result of eating a standard American diet.

What was your first thought when you heard you had celiac disease? How did you overcome the challenges of switching to a gluten-free diet?

My first thought was relief, as my doctors were concerned before my diagnosis that I could have had rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis because of my medical history. I thought that celiac disease was much easier to cope with than the other options.

I was mostly scared of how having to adopt a gluten-free diet would impact the way I developed recipes on my blog (which I had started a short time prior to my diagnosis). The uncertainty was overcome with the support of my husband (who believed in my cooking and baking skills), patience, trial and so much error, and a lot of passion to keep creating recipes. Once I understood the fundamentals of creating gluten-free recipes and how to make special flour blends for certain outcomes in baked goods, it was much easier for me to accept.

What’s the hardest challenge with vegan, gluten-free eating?

I’d have to say eating out at restaurants is the biggest challenge for me. Even though there are many more options for people following a gluten-free and vegan diet then there were even 5 years ago, and many non-American restaurants have menu selections that are naturally vegan and gluten-free, it is still difficult sometimes with spur of the moment dining or when craving traditional foods that you don’t want to recreate at home. Although I have never eaten in a restaurant where the menu could not accommodate my dietary needs, it’s just not the same as choosing from the menu as most folks would.

What advice would you give to those new to gluten-free, vegan, or G-free vegan?

Research, keep an open mind, and read all ingredients on everything, such as condiments, prepackaged goodies and other foods that may have mystery ingredients. The easiest way to start with either diet is to focus primarily on whole foods like leafy greens, whole grains, beans, legumes, rice, root vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits. Get familiar with these ingredients and learn how to create your own simple cheese sauces, milks, and meat substitutes with these types of foods.

A food processor comes in handy, but beyond that, it’s really just a slight shift in thinking and then it’s easy to recreate the foods you love, or invent new favorites with whole foods. Not to mention, there is a vast array of vegan/gluten-free convenience foods available today, such as mayonnaises and cheeses, which makes the transition easier.

What’s your favorite recipe in the book Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats?

The Butterscotch Amaretti. I could eat trays of those things! And the ingredients are so simple, and mostly pantry staples, so I can whip them up virtually any time. I like to bring those to potlucks and get-togethers as they are always a crowd favorite.

How do you create your recipes?

I love to get into the kitchen and just play around. I take a lot of inspiration from the particular ingredients I happen to have on hand, but I also shop with recipe development in mind. If persimmons are in season, for instance, I start developing a recipe in my head, and then I’ll purchase a few complimentary ingredients, and get to work.  As I am bringing the recipe together, I continue to refine the dish, adding spices, herbs or layers—whatever it may need. I know it’s done when I don’t want to change it in any way.

What is (or who is) your biggest food inspiration?

What a tough question to answer! I would say that the food community in general is very inspiring to me: from legendary greats such as Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, to my favorite food writers, to professional groups such as the IACP, to the food blogging community. I am drawn to people who have a passion for creating original food that tastes delicious, and who also have a story to tell.

Walk me through an average day in the life of Allyson Kramer.

I work from home, but I keep a calendar and regular “office” hours (although I often work late) and mark off certain days for different activities, depending on what I am working on. Generally, I wake up and head straight for the coffee while I make my kids’ breakfasts and help my oldest get ready for school. Then, I get my youngest ready for the day as she stays home with me. I always check my email first, and after that I check my calendar, and tackle anything small that I can knock out early in the morning.

Many days are just writing days, so I get myself a large mug of coffee and get to it, often working well into the evening. Other days are my recipe development/photography days, which are much more hectic and messy. I start by doing a thorough kitchen cleaning and prep for my photo setup. Then I am either developing or testing, and if the finished product looks good, and is done with testing, I photograph it. Then I transcribe the recipe in Word, edit the photo and add it to whatever project I happen to be working on. When 6 o’clock rolls around, it’s dinnertime, and I’m back in the kitchen again. Around 9 o’clock the kids go to bed, and if I have a tight deadline, I keep working; if not, a glass of red wine is in order.

Your photography is gorgeous. Were you a photographer or a foodie first?

Thank you! My interest in food developed before my interest in photography, but I have been into art ever since I could hold a pencil. Photography as a medium came later for me, but I studied fine art in college—focusing on both painting and sculpture—so my art degree has a lot to do with how I compose and what I find important in a photograph. Even before I dove into food photography, in art school I was painting and sculpting a lot about domesticity, and food was very much a recurring subject in my work, but my desire to create cookbooks  was my main motivator for investigating photography.

When I first started exploring food photography, I wasn’t very good at all (take a look at some of my earlier posts on my blog!), but eventually I became very excited by it and started exploring my options more. Photography has really strengthened my love for food, by allowing me to connect with it on a different level and have more intention regarding the aesthetics of a good dish as well as the taste.

Your new book, Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats From Around the World, comes out in May 2013. What international cuisine was most inspiring when crafting these recipes?

I am really in love with the cuisines from South America and South/Southeast Asia. When I do my own cooking, the flavors and ingredients from these parts of the globe are pervasive, since much of our daily staples, such as potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries and pumpkins, stem from South America, and so many spices originate in South/Southeast Asia. But, I’d say the combination of flavors from each region around the world—or regional culinary fusion—was the most inspiring part of creating these recipes. There is such a variety of foods available, that the possibilities truly are endless.

I get a ton of eggplant each year from my local CSA and never know what to do with it. What do I do with eggplant?

My favorite thing to do is to thinly slice a peeled eggplant, marinate in a simple sauce including tamari, brown sugar, a few dashes of liquid smoke, crushed red pepper, paprika and Italian spice blend including fennel. Then brush lightly with olive oil and bake at 350ºF (175ºC, or gas mark 4) until crispy on both sides, flipping once halfway through. It makes a great bacon substitute.

You can also slow roast the eggplant (350ºF [175ºC, or gas mark 4], cut in half and lightly salted and oiled for 45 minutes or until soft, and broil for 5 to 10 minutes) and puree the roasted eggplant along with a little tahini and lemon juice to make Baba Ghanoush, a favorite of mine right up there alongside hummus.
Thin skinned eggplant is also great cubed and sauteed, and chilled to toss into salads or use as a main ingredient on sandwiches in place of meat.

Pop by tomorrow to check out Allyson’s recipe for Cinnamon Roasted Cauliflower.

Following a plant-based, gluten-free diet is one of the healthiest lifestyle choices around, yet it can be a challenge to create meals that not only match your needs, but taste delicious too. But not any longer! Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats shows you exactly how to create compassionate and wheat-free recipes that are impressive enough for even the most seasoned foodie. Full of fresh and all-natural ingredients, the 101 fully-photographed, scrumptious recipes you’ll find inside prove that eating vegan and gluten-free doesn’t have to be a sacrifice, but a delight! From tempting appetizers, to hearty mains, to luscious desserts, you’ll find dishes to suit your every need and craving.