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Local Writer Pens 'Luxurious' Gluten-Free Recipe Book

Jan 07, 2015 09:05AM ● Published by DigMB Staff

Manhattan beach resident and author Michelle Lee will sign her book at a casual meet and greet at pages a bookstore in downtown Manhattan beach Thursday, Jan. 8 beginning at 7 p.m.

Gallery: Michelle Lee and "Luxe Living Gluten Free," a book of recipes [9 Images] Click any image to expand.

Being foodies who'd enjoyed dining wherever they traveled internationally, Michelle Lee and her husband were dismayed to learn of his gluten intolerance.

How would they get to eat the fare they'd come to love--the chicken wings, pizza and pub fare that comprises a young couple's night's out, the delectable cuisine of those international locales they'd traveled to, the ice cream sandwiches made by Manhattan Beach Creamery?

Michelle became determined to create dishes that tasted great and fulfilled her husband Steve's needs for gluten- and lactose-free fare. After six years of crafting those dishes after Steve's food sensitivities changed her cooking, you have her wonderful 2015 book, Living Luxe Gluten Free.

The Manhattan Beach resident will sign her book during a casual meet and greet at Pages: A Bookstore in downtown Manhattan Beach Thursday beginning at 7 p.m. 

Wine and food will be served during this casual event, Michelle told DigMB during a Wednesday afternoon interview at Marine Street Café, a place she and her husband regularly frequent, along with their dog Barley.

Michelle says the Bikini Wrap hamburgers at Marine Street are a favorite of her husband's--a way he can chow down on a delicious burger minus the gluten. It doesn't hurt that the restaurant is within walking distance, offers healthy cuisine and beverages and allows dogs on its patio.

The Pages book signing will be the second for Michelle and her new book. She's excited to share her newfound gluten-free lifestyle with others.

"At first we thought we weren't going to be able to eat anything anymore," says Michelle, "but we can eat everything we ate before."

For Michelle, that is the crux of the book--getting the word out that people with an intolerance to gluten, lactose or nuts can still enjoy savory cuisine, that they needn't feel deprived or that they now have to sacrifice the foods they've loved.

Michelle's recipes are inspired by family recipes and dining out. In the six years since her husband's requirements for gluten- and lactose-free eating were discovered, she's delivered recipes for Thai Pork Curry (inspired by Pok Pok restaurant in Portland), Skillet Burger and Spunky Sauce (an ode to In 'N' Out Burger) and Asian Fried Chicken, among others.

"I honestly love all food and that is reflected in this book," says the 34-year-old, who shops at Trader Joe's due to its preservative-free food products. 

Michelle also prefers organic, grass-fed, free-range meats due to their higher amount of "good fats" and omega-3s. She recommends having a butcher grind meats to avoid the bacteria that could be found in pre-packaged ground meats.

"I do shop within a budget," she says, noting that she buys organic apples, strawberries and fruit whose skin is edible but "if the skin isn't edible, I don't have to get organic."

For Lee, her new book is intended to "help people who are gluten-intolerant realize they can eat well.

"There's this misconception that when you eat  gluten-free, you're not getting tasty food. There's this idea that eating gluten-free is limiting.

"But you can eat everything you want to eat." She uses the word "luxurious" to emphasize how flavorful eating gluten-free can be.

Michelle says all of her recipes have been designed to "still capture the taste we'd actually enjoyed" before her husband's insensitivities to gluten and lactose were discovered.

The process involved finding a dish they liked, examining it to see what ingredients could no longer be included, and finding substitutions. "It's been a great process," says Michelle, who finds herself trimmer, glowing and more healthy since adopting her husband's way of eating.

Local eateries Michelle and her husband enjoy include Tin Roof BistroMarine Street CaféRiceDarren's Restaurant and Beach Pizza. She says Beach Pizza has a "fantastic" gluten-free pizza crust that can be lactose-free if you don't have cheese on it. She and her husband are able to piece together a meal at Tin Roof, and that Rice has "great" gluten-free dishes. In addition, they love Darren's gluten-free menu.

To help people eat gluten-free, Michelle's website offers recipes and other helpful information. She says people need to realize that gluten-free eating isn't a fad; it's a requirement for some people.

Her husband discovered his gluten intolerance the hard way. His stomachaches became so constant and painful that he sought medical advice but even after being put on antacids for acid reflux, he still didn't feel right. 

After a bout in which the stomach pain was so severe he doubled over and couldn't talk, he began an elimination diet after a physical therapist with a doctorate degree suggested his problems could be related to food.

About one to two weeks into a gluten-free diet, her husband saw results. After a month, he was "feeling much better."

But then he discovered that after he ate ice cream, he had issues. 

Michelle, who has no such issues with food, undertook her husband's dietary concerns with a loving vengeance. "I eat that way to support him," she says.

But she's also noticed she feels better. "When I eat now, I don't feel that full, with just the food sitting there" like she did before converting to her husband's dietary needs.

She touts products such as Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread as tasting and acting just like butter except it's healthier. She says Breyer's make s a good lactose-free ice cream. She loves coconut oil and Omission beer. Wine and distilled hard liquor are naturally gluten-free.

She also notes that "If people get really strict with following a gluten-free diet and only eat meat and produce, they could miss out on carbohydrates," which are necessary for brain function. Her remedy? Quinoa and rice, which don't contain gluten like wheat, barley, rye and processed oats do.

Through her cooking experience, Michelle has discovered the ins and outs of using alternative products as replacements for items containing gluten or lactose. In her book, she accounts for vegan cheeses that don't take as long to melt and gluten-free breads which cook differently.

For those unaware of the power of gluten, she says dietary insensitivities can develop later in life, and for all kinds of reasons that include stress and aging. She's pleased to see basic grocery stores carrying gluten- and lactose-free products.

For now, as she embarks on a West Coast book tour that will take her to San Diego, San Francisco, Bend and Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, Vancouver, Canada, and her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, she is excited about spreading the word of her gluten- and lactose-free recipes so others can eat in a luxurious manner despite such dietary requirements.

She's also eager to move forward with her website, on which she is profiling gluten-free products, restaurants, chefs and recipes so others have an online information resource.

"The thought that we couldn't eat the dishes we loved was devastating," she says. 

Fortunately, for her husband and the world at large, Michelle's new book Living Luxe Gluten Free contains more than 110 new gluten-free and lactose-free recipes.

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