helen

Hungry and Fussy

Hungry and Fussy shares how even a picky eater can use food to change their life…

“YOU’RE A COELIAC”. NOT WORDS A HUNGRY AND FUSSY FOODIE WANTS TO HEAR.  In 2007 I discovered I was a coeliac. I was advised by my doctor to adhere to a strict gluten free diet for the rest of my life. Not words a foodie wants to here, but finally an explanation for the constant lethargy, anaemia and stomach problems. My first thoughts were of all the foods on the ‘banned’ list – mum’s flaky baklava, mouthwatering lasagna, Tim Tams!! Surely he wasn’t suggesting I survive on boiled rice and poached pear alone?

The initial change in my diet was challenging but after 8 years of gluten free cooking I mastered the art of baking and working with gluten free ingredients. The gluten free options available at supermarkets and health food stores have exploded over the past decade making shopping much easier. In the early days I recall driving 10 km and paying over $10 for a loaf of gluten free bread (which still tasted like cardboard, felt like cardboard and had to be toasted to make it edible).

Delicious gluten free bread is now readily available at supermarkets and health food stores. There are multiple options to choose from including white, seeded, wholemeal and fruit and they no longer need to be toasted because they actually bend! Gluten free bread now occupies an entire bay in the supermarket.

I found traveling the most difficult hurdle during transition to my new diet. The issue was compounded when there were language barriers involved. Every time a waiter would give me a blank stare when I mentioned the word ‘gluten’ my anxiety levels started to rise. The best advice I could give any coeliac travelling is to plan ahead. Research your options on local coeliac websites and educate yourself on food ingredients.

Many people are unaware that soy sauce contains gluten for example (this is due to wheat starch added during processing). When eating at a Japanese restaurant I always request tamari which is a gluten free soy sauce or I bring my own bottle to be safe.

Another ‘banned’ food that not many people are aware of is Chinese cooking wine, also known as Shoaxing. I learnt the difficult way that this Chinese pantry staple does in fact contain gluten. The good news is you can easily substitute dry sherry for Shoaxing when cooking a stir fry. Dry sherry is readily available at your local bottle shop.

So how did my food blog come about? Well my background is in marketing. I spent over a decade marketing your favorite brands for the biggest food company in the world. Ten years ago a colleague suggested I start a food blog. My response: “what’s a blog?”. Times have certainly changed. Since that conversation I left the corporate world, became a mum to three gorgeous active children and spent more time at home finessing my cooking skills.

At parties I would always get requests for recipes when I prepared a dish, most people did not even have an allergy. I would also receive phone calls and emails from friends seeking restaurant recommendations or advice on where to eat gluten free. This triggered my interest in food blogging so I decided to launch my gluten free food blog www.hungryandfussy.com. A food blog allowed me to have five careers in one – chef, restaurant critic, photographer, writer and stylist. What more could I ask for?

My food philosophy is simple, fresh and flavorsome. I developed recipes that were easy to follow and don’t require hours over the stovetop. I understood that in reality, most of us are very time poor.

I wanted to create easy recipes that could be an express route to delicious gluten free dishes. I’ve already gone through the stress, tears and tantrums that come with discover-ing that perfect gluten free chocolate cupcake recipe so that my readers don’t have to. My gluten ‘enabled’ friends always comment that they can’t even tell the dishes are gluten free. I wanted to create achievable recipes that everyone could enjoy.

Gluten free eating is now easy and no longer daunting. Looking back the biggest benefit in eating gluten free was that I was forced to eliminate a lot of processed starchy foods from my diet and start questioning my food choices. When you begin eating nutrient dense food made from scratch the flavours and textures are so superior you wish you switched to a gluten free diet earlier.

My family now mostly eat gluten free with me even though I am the only one with an allergy. To them my food just tastes great, they never question what is in it. Gluten free living can be a challenging journey to start but in the end it is full of tasty and healthy life long benefits.

Our Interview with Helen Tzouganatos

What does “healthy” mean to you?
Balance. I live by the 80/20 rule.

Tell us your favorite way to stay healthy.
Nutrient dense food made from scratch

What are your pantry and fridge staples?
Salt, olive oil, cocoa, coconut oil, butter!

Name one food you can’t live without.
Tomatoes.

What is your favorite kitchen tool?
Glass bowl.

Of all your recipes, which is your “go-to”?
Apple cinnamon teacake.

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