Author Aslihan Sabanci Shares Gluten-Free Cooking Tips

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Aslihan Sabanci is not only a mom to three kids and former Miss Turkey, but an author and entrepenuer who has written an excellent cookbook and gluten-free guide great for families trying to stick to this special diet. Her book is called Gluten-free Mediterranean Gourmet Cuisine: Invaluable Recommendations for a Healthy Immune System.

Mrs. Sabanci was delighted to answer questions and give tips on how to start eating gluten-free. She starting eating gluten-free many years ago for her the benfit of her own health and wrote this cookbook out of her need to find tasty and practical recipes.  Here is what Mrs. Sabanci had to say:

Q: I read that from the time you were a little girl you were experimenting in the kitchen and using your friends and family as taste testers! You take pride in your recipes. How important is it to you that your food not only be gluten-free, but taste great too?

A: I think it is very important that my recipes taste great. Great tasting food is the key to having kids eat a well balanced diet. Don’t forget, if your healthy food does not taste great, your kids will always prefer the fried, super fattening and super tasty unhealthy food over the healthy food.

Q: You’ve expressed your frustration with many gluten-free recipes that incorporate bizarre, hard-to-find ingredients. What did you do to make your recipes more practical? 

A: Today, especially in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, there are more gluten-free options to choose from. However, many gluten-free ingredients are still hard to find when you are traveling or when you are not living in the cosmopolitan cities. That’s why for my book,  I wanted to use ingredients that could be found at any regular grocery store or supermarket.

Q: School is here, as is the exposure to many germs! What is a great way to keep the family immue system going strong?

A: To boost the immune system, it is very important to eat a well-balanced diet full of whole foods and plenty of antioxidants. I mentioned all of these valuable antioxidants, their resources and the amount in which they are found in different nutrients in my book.  I worked with an award-winning pediatrician, a dietitian and a nutritionist to figure out the antioxidant values of each and every recipe in my book. These doctors then formed charts to graphically present these calculated antioxidant values so my readers can be informed about the health benefits of my recipes.

To help boost the immune system, the most valuable antioxidants to consume are: Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Niacin, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc. The most efficient way to increase antioxidant intake is to increase the daily  consumption of fruits, vegetables and legumes. I also dedicated a chapter in my book on these nutrients and their natural resources.

Q: What’s your go-to meal to feed your family on a busy night?

A: The quickest meal to make for me is broccoli soup, crispy meatballs and oven baked potatoes.

[Crispy Meatball Recipe]

Q: For moms trying to change their household diet to fit the needs of their child who was just diagnosed with celiac disease, what would be five things from the supermarket you would stock up on to get started?

A: Quinoa flour (to make bread or any other pastries), quinoa pasta or the actual quinoa. All kinds of rice to make variety of rice dishes, so you do not get bored with cooking only one type of rice (wild rice, basmati rice, risotto rice….) Plenty of fruits and vegetables. Delicious, different kinds of cheese (mozzarella, parmesan, swiss, feta, hallumi…)You may use the cheeses as toppings for pastas, soups, inside sandwiches, flavorings for pastries, or even place these cheeses together with vegetables in an oven tray and bake them with herbs like rosemary, thyme or basil.

Q: When you first started eating gluten-free, what was the hardest to give up?

A: Pastries!

Q: Do your kids have a favorite recipe from the book? Do you cook together as a family?

A: Yes, I try to cook with my children, because I think it is very important that they learn how to prepare food and eat healthy. They all love my recipe for dolma stuffed with meat, rice and delicious herbs.

[Tomato, Zucchini and Bell Pepper Dolma Recipe]

Q: What life lessons did you learn as Miss Turkey, competing in the World Beauty Pageant? If any of your kids wanted to compete, would you encourage them?

A: Miss Turkey and Miss World were great experiences for me. I was 18, and I was given the responsibility to represent my country at such a young age. I took it very seriously and I prepared as if I was preparing for a big final exam. In the end, I was the 6th in Miss World and also won the title of European Queen of Beauty. It was such a big honor. On the other hand I also understood that beauty is only temporary and what really matters in life is constant self development. So I continued my education at Texas A&M University, then obtained an MBA from Bocconi University in Italy, and Cornell University in New York. Then started working. And I have kept on working since then. I would encourage my children to choose to do whatever makes them happy. If they turn their hobbies into their jobs, and love what they do, I think that’s the way to go.

Q: Gluten-free eating is hard, although your wonderful book makes it easier! What words of encouragement do you have for people taking on gluten-free eating?

A: Do not be scared! Go beyond the books and experiment for yourself. Do not forget to exercise and to get enough good night sleep. Try to make best out of it, and have fun!

Aslihan Sabanci’s cookbook is excellent. This book makes it easy to find simple and delicious recipes that are great for families struggling to eat gluten-free. Within the pages, one can find a multitude of practical, fresh recipes from Guacamole to Sesame Chicken, to delicious desserts and smoothies. There are even many dairy free or dairy optional recipes included!

Aslihan Sabanci’s cookbook Gluten-Free Mediterranean Gourmet Cuisine is available on Amazon.

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