FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

A bit more info.

What is naturally gluten-free?

Naturally gluten-free means foods that do not contain gluten– ie that lovely stretchy stuff that makes bread chewy and cakes lofty. In other words: flours that occur without gluten, such as nut flours, rice flours, and other grain flours. More on that below.

What are some gluten-free flours?

I’m glad you asked! There are many gluten-free flours that are wonderful for baking!

Nut flours such as almond, hazelnut, pecan, etc.

Whole grain flours such as sorghum, brown rice, oat (make sure this is certified gluten-free), quinoa, millet, buckwheat (light or dark), amaranth, teff.

Rice flours such as white rice flour or sweet white rice flour.

Starches such as cornstarch, arrowroot, tapioca and potato.

What is refined sugar vs. unrefined sugar

Refined sugar is sugar that we commonly know as “white sugar”. It has been processed to remove the molasses that’s naturally found in it. The processing also removes much of the sugar’s natural minerals and nutrients including phosphorus, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. 

Unrefined sugars, such as honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, unsulphered molasses, brown rice syrup, fruits, dates, and others, still contain some of the nutrients found in their natural state and may be easier for your body to process and digest.

Sugar is still sugar. Too much of it is not good, whether that’s brown sugar bought at the supermarket or honey from your backyard bees. However, what I have found is that using a sweetener like maple syrup, which is pretty sweet, allows me to lower the amount of sugar overall in a recipe. It’s not always a one:one swap, which is where the recipe development portion comes in. And these natural sweeteners come with benefits such as antioxidant qualities (honey), essential minerals (maple syrup), and extra fiber and vitamins (dates), just to name a few.

Where to find your published recipe books?

My cookbook, Flourless: Recipes for Naturally Gluten-Free Desserts is still available in some bookstores, and always on amazon.com.

My self-published cookbooks, Gather: Recipes for a Gluten Free Thanksgiving and Celebrate: The Gluten-Free Holiday Table, are also available via amazon.

I plan to add a cookbooks section on this site where you can buy my self-published cookbooks as well as downloadable recipe bundles! Check back soon!

Can I make substitutions?

Err … yes? This is a tough one. I am constantly substituting ingredients and testing recipes until I am satisfied with the result. Because many of the gluten-free/refined-sugar free recipes I post are a bit specific to ingredient and flavor, substitutions will make your finished product different than mine.

But! I am all for experimentation. I write my recipes in grams and cups, so it is easy to swap a different gluten-free flour in place of the one called for (example: if you can’t have oats, try sorghum flour or brown rice flour. I try not to use too much brown rice flour in my recipes because it can be gritty and there is the whole arsenic factor. Still, all things in moderation.) Just make sure you weigh each flour when substituting for accuracy. Tiger nut flour may be subbed for almond flour equally, if you can’t have nuts. I prefer arrowroot but you may have tapioca or cornstarch — these are interchangeable in my recipes.

As for sweeteners, if you use a liquid sweetener in place of a dry sugar you may need to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe slightly. You can also use plain white or brown sugar for all of the recipes, but you may find that you prefer to increase the amount called for by about 1/4 cup.

I try to develop my recipes with the flavors of both the flours and sweeteners in mind so that they complement each other. I also recognize that you may not need or want to bake gluten-free, so you can use regular all-purpose flour in place of the gluten-free flours called for in a weight substitution as the recipe indicates.

I will note specific flour substitution suggestions for the recipes when possible.

What ingredients do I need to make the recipes
on your site?

As mentioned, there are a whole lot of naturally gluten-free flours to choose from. The flours I use more often include:

  • Almond flour, finely ground preferred unless otherwise noted
  • Sorghum flour
  • (Gluten-free) oat flour
  • Sweet white rice flour
  • Tapioca flour
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Other nut flours/ground nuts

More occasionally:

  • Millet flour
  • Potato starch
  • Brown or white rice flour
  • Arrowroot

The unrefined sugars you will need for most of my recipes include:

  • Maple syrup
  • Maple sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Sucanat
  • Dates
  • Honey
How to ask a question about a recipe?

Contact me through the contact form!

How did you end up living in all those countries?

I spent five years living in Morocco (Casablanca), Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), and Sydney (Australia) as I accompanied my husband, a foreign service commercial officer. I wrote about our experiences in real time — search the blog archives for more — and plan to add to the essays section to share more about life overseas. It was utterly life-changing, in the best way.

How did you get into gluten-free cooking?

I have been a vegetarian for over half my life, and have always loved experimenting with cooking for different food restrictions (or as I like to look at it: dietary uniqueness). I wrote my first cookbook because I was inspired by an ongoing conversation with a good friend who was gluten-free; I learned so much from her. I wanted to write a book that everyone could use, with simple, whole foods ingredients that were easy to find.

As I progress with my gluten-free baking, I have incorporated a few more ingredients but still keep to that original philosophy: that these should be recipes that everyone can enjoy, regardless of whether or not they need to eat gluten-free regularly. Transitioning into using natural sweeteners has been happening gradually for many years, as my sweet tooth is naturally pretty low and I recognize that consuming too much sugar brings with it many health issues.

My site originated in 2005 as a way to chronicle the dinner parties I hosted and then become a recipe journal/life chronicle to parallel my food writing career. Now it is a site that includes naturally gluten-free, naturally sweet recipes as well as essays that may be unrelated to food. (The original blog archives are still here, though! And there are many vegetarian/vegan and many other baking recipes I still make.)

Do you only write about food and recipes?

No — I have worked as a journalist and reported on stories for both local and national publications throughout the last 20 years. But my favorite subject is food, and I love to develop recipes, so much of my writing is centered around the kitchen.

You can explore my writing samples here.

How much does a cup of flour weigh?

Oh gosh, this one is more complicated than you might think! The range goes from 120 g-140 g. I use 140 g for a cup of flour when adapting recipes, though it’s not always a one:one substitution with all-purpose flour, which is why it’s great to weigh your flours if at all possible. To make the gluten-free flours with all-purpose flour, swap it in by weight.

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cucinanicolina by nicole spiridakis © copyright 2021. all rights reserved.
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