After a lifetime of digestive problems and medical testing, Caroline Shannon-Karasik was relieved when she finally received a celiac diagnosis in 2010.
So relieved, in fact, that within three months she was blogging all about her new discoveries, including, but not limited to, cooking and eating gluten-free. She also shares fitness, beauty and general lifestyle tips at sincerelycaroline.com.
And this month, the Irwin native brought out her first print book, "The Gluten-Free Revolution," in which she shares much the same type of information. The book contains recipes for gluten-free smoothies, desserts, main dishes, salads (see Rainbow Quinoa Salad recipe) and more, plus information on yoga, pilates, dance, meditation, workouts and beauty products.
Yes, they fit the bill, too: Some lipsticks and toothpastes, believe it or not, contain gluten (the protein contained in many grains), meaning celiac sufferers need to find alternatives.
The book is a fusion of Ms. Shannon-Karasik's health journey and her professional abilities. She received a journalism degree from Point Park University in 2005, spending one of her college summers interning for the Post-Gazette. She went on to work for Redbook, Penguin Books, and other publications and publishing companies before going solo as a freelance writer.
She and husband, Daniel Karasik, who teaches dance at Point Park, now live in Edgewood, where they're living this gluten-free adventure together.
Although many celiac sufferers pine for the foods they once enjoyed, Ms. Shannon-Karasik says she has "never looked back." That's partly because she suffered bad symptoms for so long that she's never felt tempted to cheat on her gluten-free diet. Within two weeks of her celiac diagnosis, she had already felt dramatic improvements in digestion and energy level, although it took longer for complete healing to occur.
But part of her enthusiasm for going gluten-free comes also from the fact that she has a partner in the endeavor. She and her husband both enjoy cooking, so they try new recipes together.
A self-described "heavy baker" even before going gluten-free, she knew she needed to tackle the problem of learning to work with gluten-free flours, a tricky task for even the best of bakers.
"I made a lot of bricks and hockey pucks" in the beginning, she confessed, but she eventually modified many of her prior favorites to make them gluten-free. The book contains recipes for such doughy favorites as Raspberry Lemonade Doughnuts and Honey Dijon Chickpea & Olive Pizza with Feta Cheese and Grapes.
She'll introduce the book at several events in the Pittsburgh area, including:
• 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at South Hills Power Yoga in Dormont: Yoga class, book signing and snacks from the book. Free.
• 6 p.m. Jan. 31 at Dragonfly Pilates in Shadyside: Barre class, smoothies and healthy snacks from the book. Free.
• 1 p.m. Feb. 1 at Pittsburgh Public Market's Grand Opening, 2401 Penn Ave., Strip District: Presentation, samples and book signing. Free.
• 6 p.m. Feb. 11 at Union Project, East Liberty: "Hear Me Roar!" event features speakers and demos on food, mood, body issues, self-defense and more; Ms. Shannon-Karasik will sign and sell books. $20. foodmoodgirl.com.
• 2 p.m. Feb. 15 at Stray Dog Yoga in Pine: Yoga class, book signing and gluten-free snacks from the book. Free.
The beauty of the book, she said, is that it gives readers lots of options, so they can pick and choose which recipes and lifestyle changes they'd like to try.
"I don't believe in an all-or-nothing lifestyle," she said, admitting that while she is a Type-A personality, she understands the need for flexibility in life.
"I try to present a balanced approach. You can have your green smoothie and your brownie, too."
For more information about the book or Ms. Shannon-Karasik's local events, go to sincerelycaroline.com.
Symphony of Food: Signature courses prepared by chefs from eight local restaurants and food businesses, plus auctions and celebrity emcee Sally Wiggin of WTAE-TV. 6 p.m. Jan. 24 at Bella Sera in Canonsburg. $100 benefits WOMEN of Southwestern PA's charitable efforts for local women and children in need. 724-514-7176 or womenofswpa.org.
Food Pantry Brunch Challenge: Chefs from local restaurants compete to create the best brunch dish using common food pantry staples. 11 a.m. Jan. 25 at the New Hazlett Theater, North Side. Participating restaurants and businesses include Bar Marco, Eat'n Park, Bistro to Go, James Street Gastropub, Whole Foods and more; proceeds benefit Northside Common Ministries. 412-323-1163.
Robert Burns Supper: Celebrate the life and poetry of famed Scottish poet Robert Burns with a traditional supper at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Pittsburgh Golf Club. Poetry, music, authentic Scottish fare, pipe band, highland dancers, whisky tasting, silent auction. Tickets range from $75 to $750 and benefit the Annual Fund of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. 412-622-5772 or members.carnegiemuseums.org/burns.
Butler County Wine Festival: Wine samples from Pennsylvania wineries, treats from local restaurants and caterers, vendor merchandise. 2 or 6 p.m. Jan. 25 at Days Inn, Butler. 724-283-1500 or wisr680.com/wine-fest.html. Benefits Butler's Big Brothers/Big Sisters program.
Pour for a Cure: Beers from around the world, cheese pairings, hors d'oeuvres and music. 6 p.m. Jan. 30 at Pittsburgh Opera, Strip District. $50; $20 for designated drivers. showclix.com/event/pourforacure2014. Benefits Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Souper Bowl Soup Contest: Email your best soup recipe before Jan. 30 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ten finalists will be selected to bring pots of soup to the Monroeville store at noon Feb. 2 for judging. Winner gets a $50 store gift card, gift basket and Souper Bowl soup pot trophy. 412-858-7000, ext. 7.
Rainbow Quinoa Salad
Caroline Shannon-Karasik suggests rinsing and draining quinoa before cooking in order to remove saponin, a coating that gives quinoa a bitter, soap-like taste.
-- Rebecca Sodergren
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons honey or agave syrup
2 cups quinoa, cooked
1 cup canned garbanzo beans
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup mixed bell peppers (red, yellow, orange), diced
1/2 cup green onions, diced
1/2 cup raw cashews
2 tablespoons hemp seed
In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, garam masala, olive oil, and honey. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Drizzle with apple cider vinegar mixture and toss before serving. Makes 3 cups.
-- Caroline Shannon-Karasik, The Gluten-Free Revolution
Rebecca Sodergren: email@example.com or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.