Guest Chick: Libby Klein

Please join the Chicks in welcoming fab cozy author Libby Klein, who pens the Poppy McAllister Mysteries! The next entry in the series, MIDNIGHT SNACKS ARE MURDER, will be released July 31!

The Life and Trials of the Gluten Free

Gluten. Very few people know what it is. You can’t see it or taste it, but you can feel the effects of it. As a baker, I’m very aware of what gluten does to food. Sometimes you want to develop a lot of it. Like when you’re making French bread and you want it to be crusty on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. Sometimes you want to be very careful not to develop it. Like when you’re making a light as air cake and you want a buttery moist crumb instead of a dense brick. Most people live their lives and never ask what gluten is until some annoying granola crunchy hipster comes along and ruins dinner for everyone announcing they’re gluten free now. That’s me.

The day the doctor told me I had an autoimmune disease and had to go gluten free, I left her office and went to McDonalds and bought a double cheeseburger, fries, and an apple pie. Then I went to a pizza place and ordered a pizza. Just so you know, this level of gluttony is unusual for me. Unless PMS is involved and at least then I space it out better.

My first stage of going gluten free was to completely fritz out and pretend I didn’t know what the doctor was talking about. Lalalalala “Gluten? What’s gluten? This isn’t gluten it’s toast.” Before long I became very aware that I had made a horrible mistake. It may have been the Jabba the Hut body double in the mirror or the fact that even my yoga pants were straining to contain the effects of my choices.

So, in my second stage of going gluten free I decided to go scorched earth. I cut out all gluten completely.  I didn’t even want to see gluten in my periphery.  I wouldn’t eat baked goods for the rest of my life. A person can survive on just meat and vegetables, right? I mean do I really need bagels and cookies?

Sixteen hours later my third stage of going gluten free kicked in. That’s the stage where I ransack the gluten free aisle of the grocery store in my pajamas with a crazed look on my face, a cart full of boxes that make empty promises, and I’m elbow deep in a bag of Tate’s gluten free chocolate chip cookies. (Which are delicious by the way!)  Now I’m open to anything. Crackers made out of bird seed? I don’t care, I’ll try them! Cupcakes made out of bean flour? That sounds disgusting. I’ll take all three flavors.

Be careful though, sometimes marketing people try to trick you. “Gluten Free Tilapia!” Okay. Now the only way raw, 1-ingredient tilapia would ever have gluten in it is if you were fishing with donuts as bait and let him get a good bite before reeling him in. (Which would be only fair – I mean, come on! You’re gonna eat him.)

Of course, on the flip side there are some things that you’d never expect to contain gluten that sneak up on you and whack you on the butt. Things like ice cream, chocolate bars, roasted nuts and French fries. (McDonald’s French fries have 17 ingredients and one of them is gluten. I’m convinced two others are spite and vindictiveness.) I’ve tried to order a steak only to find out it contained gluten because it was marinated in beer. Burgers that were soaked in Worchester sauce, and chicken that was brushed with soy sauce. It’s meat. That’s just wrong. But I bet it was tasty! Of course, I’ll never know. I had a salad. I’m fine.

Stage four involves reading all the labels and annoying everyone with your 60 Minutes expose style interview. “Does that have gluten in it? Are you sure? How do you know?” This stage is why so few people want to eat with someone who has gone gluten free.

Stage five, which comes moments after stage four, is being annoyed by the blank stare and lack of confidence that can only mean the person you’re interrogating has no idea what gluten is. “Uhhhhh…..nooooo? Probably not.” You’re gonna guess? That’s good. It’s just my body wracked in pain later if you’re wrong. No big deal, I can chance it. I’m fine.

Eating out is a minefield. I was once denied frozen yogurt when I said I was gluten free because it had dairy in it and “dairy has gluten.” Um, NO. It doesn’t. And I’ve been assured that there was absolutely NO gluten in my “gluten free” food. None. Not at all. We checked and it’s safe. And when the swelling and itching started I discovered that my dish had wheat, bread crumbs, soy sauce and flour. But the word “gluten” was nowhere on the label so they thought it would be okay. Hey, It’s all right. I get it. You go get some more training and I’ll spend the week in the bathroom. Maybe you can send someone over later to hold my hair while I throw up. Do you happen to have a Benadryl for the ride home? I’m fine.

Other restaurants are more vigilant. Like the time I ordered an Asian Chicken Salad and told them I was gluten free so leave off the wontons.  When it arrived, not only were there no won tons, there were no peppers, no cucumbers, no peanuts, no onions, no dressing, and no sesame seeds. All I had was a bowl of iceberg lettuce and a grilled chicken breast. They had even picked the carrot slivers out of the lettuce. I do appreciate the vigilance, but now I have a bowl of sadness.

Over the years that I’ve been gluten free I’ve gotten a lot better at it, but I still make mistakes. Just tonight I had barbecue sauce. It was a popular gourmet brand that I bought from the gluten free section of the grocery store. There was a label on the grocery store shelf highlighting GLUTEN FREE. Sweet! Then why am I itching so bad? After an inspection of the ingredients, the bottle contains soy sauce which is made from wheat. I took a special gluten pill that should help. After all, I didn’t have that much. The itching will eventually stop. I’m fine.

The cornerstone of the gluten free market is bread. Or should I say, toast. Because toasting is the secret to gluten free bread. Toasting is the magical process that makes gluten free bread more believable. The first gluten free bread I had years ago was a rice flour loaf that was so dense and stiff it fell apart at the first bite. You could have used it to patch a hole in the drywall. It was hard and sour, and I considered giving the gluten free life up altogether. Who needs a thyroid and working intestines? Don’t they have pills for that now? And what’s with the giant hole in every loaf? Does gluten act as putty to fill the holes in tastier bread? Is that where all the happiness leaked out? You need to sacrifice one piece of bread for every two slices to plug the hole or your peanut butter will just squish out in your lap.

Thank goodness I can bake. I can make you just about anything gluten free and you’d never know it. Okay, sometimes you’ll know. Especially if you have it at the same time as the normal version of it. That’s a big part of going gluten free. Don’t eat the Tastycake and the gluten free cupcake at the same time. If you go without cake long enough, you’ll work up enough appreciation to enjoy what seems like a very dense kinda heavy cupcake. Try to focus on the frosting.

In a stunning coincidence, my protagonist Poppy McAllister is also gluten free due to an autoimmune disease. I mean, what are the odds of it happening to both of us?! She works part time baking gluten free goodies for the local coffee shop and she includes some of her recipes in the back of each mystery. Not only does writing gluten free recipes keep me from lusting after donuts and cupcakes I can’t have, (when I’m writing anyway) I get to share some really yummy recipes with my readers. The only things I’ve haven’t been able to reproduce gluten free are yeast raised donuts, and croissants. And I’m still working on both. Stay tuned!

About the book:

When her sleepwalking aunt is accused of committing murder, Poppy McAllister finds out there’s no rest for the weary . . .

Between trying to get her gluten-free baking business off the ground and helping her aunt remodel her old Victorian into the Butterfly House Bed and Breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey, Poppy is ready to call, “Mayday!” And now Aunt Ginny—who’s a handful wide-awake—is sleepwalking on her new sleeping pill prescription and helping herself to neighbors’ snacks and knickknacks.

Even more alarming, a local humanitarian who worked with troubled teens is found murdered, and the police suspect the “Snack Bandit.” Other than a bad case of midnight munchies and some mild knickknack kleptomania, Aunt Ginny is harmless. Someone’s trying to frame her. Poppy will need to work tirelessly to uncover the killer and put the case to rest—before Aunt Ginny has to trade in her B & B for a bunk bed behind bars . . .


About the author:

Libby Klein graduated Lower Cape May Regional High School sometime in the ’80s. Her classes revolved mostly around the culinary sciences and theater, with the occasional nap in Chemistry. She dabbles in the position of Vice President of a technology company which mostly involves bossing other people around, making spreadsheets and taking out the trash. She writes from her Northern Virginia office while trying to keep her cat Figaro off her keyboard. Most of her hobbies revolve around eating, and travel, and eating while traveling. Catch up with Libby on her website  and on her Facebook page.

Readers, do you have any food allergies that make eating out a challenge? Do you have any great gluten-free (or dairy-free or nut-free) recipes to share? Do you have any idea why half the slices in a loaf of gluten-free bread have a huge hole in the middle? Share in comments.

43 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Libby Klein

  1. While I am not gluten-free, I eat mostly vegan and can definitely relate to some of your challenges. Eating at restaurants can be tricky if it’s a new place, and in general I prefer to eat at home just because I know what I’m getting and don’t have to wonder if that dish marked “vegetarian” on the menu really contains oyster sauce because people don’t know any better. But I think overall people are becoming more aware and accommodating of dietary restrictions. Things have definitely improved since I first started eating vegetarian 29 years ago (and back then I don’t think anyone had even heard of gluten-free). Also, if you’re ever looking for a good gluten-free pizza crust, Trader Joe’s makes an awesome cauliflower version!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Marla. I love cauliflower crust pizza. I’ve tried to make it at home a few times. I can’t seem to get enough water out of the cauliflower for the crust to not be soggy. It’s a work in progress. There is another brand I really like called Against All Grain. It’s made from tapioca starch. That’s a really good gluten free crust.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this series! I cannot eat pistachio pudding! It must be the way something is processed for the pudding, as I can eat pistachios! My daughter Laura cannot eat Ranch dressing in any form. We have odd allergies!
    Why does the bread have holes in it??

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Deb! That is weird about the pistachio pudding. Although instant pudding is mostly chemicals so i bet there is something sneaky in there. I had a friend who could not eat chicken for years. Then we discovered she could eat organic chicken just fine. She was allergic to the yellow dye they were injecting in the non-organic birds to make them look buttery. I had a burger wrapped in lettuce from 5 Guys (OMG SO Good!) a couple years ago when i went out with friends. I thought i was doing really good until i broke out in itchy welts all over my face and chest. I forgot that their cheese is processed American “cheese” made with yellow dye number 5. I had to take a Benadryl and spent the rest of the night half asleep and drooling in front of my friends. I’m not sure they noticed any difference.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks. Libby, for a very entertaining blog. Love your sense of humor. Lucky me, no food restrictions…I just eat everything, sometimes too much!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. No food allergies for me but I really enjoyed your post. My nephew is gluten free so I know what happens when you try to bring it under control.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I so appreciate your sense of humor in tackling the gluten-free lifestyle! Thanks for sharing your process! I had to begin that journey over five years ago and it’s amazing how gluten hides in so many things. It’s a lot of trial and error but in the meantime, our bodies pay a severe price. Strong reading glasses have become necessary to read labels incessantly and salads with oil and vinegar are my mainstay when dining out. I’m glad that so many companies are developing new gf baked goods and improving what’s out there. It’s definitely made eating a whole lot tastier when I don’t have time to bake some of your incredibly yummy recipes!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much Kim. I can’t imagine being gluten free and not knowing how to bake. I can make just about anything. Eating out still gets me in trouble. Once i ordered a gluten free salad in a fancy upscale gluten friendly restaurant that quizzed us about allergies when we arrived. My food was brought by a designated server with a little flag in the entree. It was on a special plate for allergy customers. I beheld my beautiful salad and said to the server, “oh, you even have gluten free croutons?” Her face paled, she snatched my salad up and marched it back to the kitchen. My new salad arrived sans croutons.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Libby, what a great sense of humor you have. I’ve always been grateful that neither me nor my family has food issues (okay, The Boy is now allergic to shrimp and lobster, but that’s minor compared to what could be). When I hear what other people go through, sometimes I feel a bit guilty.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Liz! I’m sorry the Boy has allergies. Shellfish can be quite dangerous. I hope he has plenty of things he loves that make up for it. Tell him to focus on the hush puppies. (I was very relieved the day i discovered that hush puppies are not made out of what they sound like.) Plus, he can have all the hot fudge brownie sundaes he wants. And they hardly ever have eyes.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Thanks for visiting us today, Libby — you’re a hoot! Hubs is GF, so that’s what I eat, too. I never thought I’d miss the tasteless GF bread until we tried a no-grain, no-dairy diet earlier this year. I was craving it! BTW, sometimes we fill the bread hole where the “happiness leaks out” with an egg and fry it up to make Toad in Hole!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Vickie! What a brilliant idea to make Toad in the Hole! I wish I’d thought of that. I’m more likely to come up with a scheme for “Donut in the Hole!” What can i say, I’m a dreamer. How did you feel on your no grain, no dairy diet? I feel so much better it’s a mystery why I don’t stick to the no dairy part better.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Libby, I do have less joint pain when I cut out dairy and grain. But, sticking to no dairy long term is hard. Ice cream is not usually a big temptation for me. But, it’s summer and I want some ice cream, dang it!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Vickie, there are tons of awesome dairy-free ice creams nowadays. Ben & Jerry’s makes about 10 different vegan flavors, and they are all soooo good. You must try them if you haven’t already. Many stores carry them, but sometimes they’re shelved in a different area than the regular ice creams so you might have to hunt for them.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Libby, you’re hilarious! As is your series. Welcome to Chicks, we’re so happy to have you. Now I want to buy those Tate’s gluten-free cookies. But being on WW, I’ve learned that gluten-free is not points-free. In fact, some of those options are downright points-heavy. A gal can’t win!!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ellen, you are singing the “Libby Song of Mourning.” I am constantly juggling the balls of “gluten free” “Dairy Free” “Sugar Free” and “Low Carb!” The only ball i usually have a grip on is Gluten free because its the most dangerous for me. If i had all my dietary balls in the air i’d be living on meat and green vegetables and i don’t have that kind of discipline. Somehow I’ve developed the ability to read a nutrition label and focus in on the key word for the day and be blind to the rest.

      My husband: “What are you eating?”
      Me: “Unicorn butter with rainbow sprinkles.”
      My husband: “This is full of dairy, sugar, and artificial colors.”
      Me: Not making eye contact. “It’s gluten free.”
      My husband: Aren’t you still allergic to all those things?
      Me: less sure of myself and scratching the newly appearing welts on my face. “Oh yeah.”

      Days without a dietary fail: back to 0

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Love you and your sense of humor, Libby! And although I’m a gluttonously pro-gluten, my stomach can’t take copious amounts of bread like it used to. PS Let me know if you need someone to test your efforts at creating gluten-free croissants!


    Liked by 3 people

  10. Of course, when you look at gluten free products, many of them are made with nut flours. I’m allergic to nuts. Talk about a double edged sword.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh Mark. You are so right. If i lost nuts that would be 25% of my allowed food list. There are lots of gluten-free flours that don’t contain nuts, (rice, corn, sorghum, tapioca, arrowroot, cassava) but almost all the Paleo recipes are built on the structure of nut meal. I order almond meal in 25 pound bags when i do a lot of baking. And when you have multiple allergies its so hard to “buy” anything. You almost have to do all your own baking. When i go to a church social, i can’t take anything with nuts because so many kids are allergic. That’s most of my recipes because nuts is one of the few things I CAN have.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for the humorous blog on such a painful subject. I’m forwarding it to my cousin who is just now having to go gluten free.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Yay, it’s Libby day! ❤️ Welcome, friend!

    Your post is fabulous. And I can totally relate to having “a bowl of sadness” while dining out…though for me it’s not gluten, it’s…well, everything that tastes good, basically.

    Thanks so much for the visit. Can’t wait to read your second Poppy book! (Wow, it took me three tries to type her name right. Do you ever find Pippy and Pappy in your drafts? Or maybe it’s just my giant-thumbed typing.)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Cynthia!! Yay! I’m with the Chicks today! I’m so excited! I don’t have trouble with Poppy, but i often wish I’d given Aunt Ginny and easier name to type. The last fancy meal i had was – i think – for my birthday. We went to a very fancy place out in the country with extremely lovely reviews. They assured me that gluten free was no problem. They could work with any item on the menu and make it gluten free. I thought SCORE! My husband and i ordered the same thing. Only when our meals arrived, he had a giant plate of schmancy and i had a piece of meat next to a shaved turnip. WTH. Apparently, “We can make any item gluten free” was code for “We will leave everything out of your meal that contains gluten and it will be a very disappointing surprise. Oh, and it will still cost the same. 😦

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Libby I love reading anything you write, even this post. I do not have a problem with gluten and could probably live on it if you threw in those marinated steaks. And I am probably one of your friends that says “sure this is gluten free” when I really have no idea, but want to change the subject. Oh sorry you are in pain and your face is swelling. Does that mean you are not going to eat that steak? Yep, sorry I am just that mean. That does not mean I get irritated when Poppy talks about being gluten free or her recipes. Now if only all gluten freers (my word, lol) would have the sense of humor you two have, I could be happy eating out with them. (seriously who am I kidding, I don’t ever go out to eat with anyone, lol). I cannot wait for the new release!! Oh once I had scallops and had a serious reaction to them. Does that count? I am not allergic to them at all so not sure what happened there. They were really good though, so worth it!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Kay, you are so sweet! Thank you! Only a true friend would offer to eat all the lovely gluten items off my plate for me. I have one girlfriend who used to be my taste tester in the buffet line. It was her job to make sure there was no seafood in the salads. (I detest sea food – not allergic – figures) She’d taste each item to make sure it was chicken salad and not tuna, crab or shrimp salad. Once she was wrong, and after putting in on my plate she said, “Oh well. Here, I’ll eat it.” And when i go out with my husband, and I’m just about to tell the server that I don’t need the xxx muffin/donut/toast/ you name it, he’ll kick me under the table and give me a look. “Yes, i will have the wheat toast with my gluten free omelette. Please try to make sure they don’t touch. This is not suspicious at all.” I’ve worked most foods out on a sliding scale that measures the consequences of eating them with the level of whether or not they were worth it.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Libby, thanks so much for joining us at
    Chicks today!! Absolutely loved your post. I’m sorry to say I didn’t know much about gluten. (Now I do!) I’m the original Dairy Queen, I’m afraid. But I’m allergic to shellfish and have never been able to even swallow one tiny piece of any kind of fish (instant gag). I take that as a sign. My kids are the same and people sometimes blame me for never introducing them to swimmy things. But I still haven’t recovered
    from the horrors of every Friday in my elementary school cafeteria. Congrats on the new book! Can’t wait to read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lisa! We agree about the swimmy food. If i liked seafood it would double the amount of things i could eat, but i detest it. Sometimes people try to trick me with fish “that isn’t fishy at all.” I can still tell. And if you only like fish that “isn’t fishy” maybe you don’t like fish either. You know what else isn’t fishy at all? Pizza. Just sayin.


    1. The Enchilada recipe in the back of Class Reunions Are Murder is a Paleo recipe. That means no grains, no dairy, no soy, no artificial anything, and no refined sugars. Cashews are very versatile. They can be made into sour cream, tart filling, milk replacement, ice cream, and pie crust. I follow the Paleo diet for my autoimmune disease – until i want to eat something that isn’t Paleo. I have always felt the best when I’m 100% compliant to clean eating. I really should stick to it better, but cheese calls my name and whispers lovely promises to me.


  16. Hey, Libby! Thanks for stopping by. I’ll never forget meeting you on the elevator at Left Coast Crime wearing your Chicks pin! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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