Hi there. I’m Shauna James Ahern. I’m the writer, photographer, and baker for this site.
I’m Daniel Ahern. For years, Shauna referred to me as the Chef on this site. I’m the head recipe developer, especially for anything savory. I choose all the photos for the post. And generally, I’m guiding the work behind the scenes.
Together, we’re gluten-free girl.
Here, we share stories of family, friends, and the food that gathered us around the table. We love to tell the stories of the creative people who move us: bakers, sculptors, cider makers, chefs, and photographers. And we share the insights we’ve gleaned about gluten-free baking after playing with flours for more than a decade.
We’re a couple of goofballs who love food. We love thinking and talking about food, cooking food, photographing food, and sharing food. We love feeding our people.
We love artichokes dipped in good butter, roasted potatoes, a Dungeness crab feast with friends, any vegetable in season at the moment (well, maybe not lima beans),peanut butter and apples, ripe blackberries off the vine in August, anything with tahini, dark chocolate, homemade granola, kale salads (that’s more Shauna), a big pot of braised beans, fried eggs, and chicken stock in the refrigerator, ready to use.
However, we don’t fuss about food. Food is a daily pleasure, mundane and urgent, instead of something to fetishize or brag about. Nothing makes you more humble than making food that a toddler doesn’t want to eat. Cooking simple but good foods for nearly every meal is a normal activity in our house, a practical skill we’re sharing with our kids. And we like to share what we’re learning with you.
Our kids, Lucy and Desmond, often chop vegetables or help make smoothies in the morning or think of recipes they want to make. This is what we do as a family. We take great pleasure in it, and over time, we hope they do too.
Oh, and Shauna has celiac, an autoimmune disorder that means her body reads gluten as a toxin. That’s why this site is gluten-free. But I’m much more interested in living joyfully with this than in deprivation. I’m all about the yes.
(For more of the specific story of how I was diagnosed and life changed, scroll down to the long story below.)
If you’re brand-new to gluten-free, we have some pretty extensive guides to help you. Brand new to this? We can help. We have a guide to gluten-free baking that should save you a lot of time. And for a really detailed read on how to do this with joy, read a guide to gluten-free living.
We have a rather large recipe index of foods you might like to make. I have four published books: a food memoir about what I learned when I first went gluten-free and 3 cookbooks I wrote with Danny. (Gluten-Free Girl Every Day won the James Beard award for excellence.) We also teach baking classes, both online and in person.
We’re happy you’re here. Pull up a chair and stay for awhile.
frequently asked questions
Why is this site called gluten-free girl if you both create it?
I started this site in May of 2005, just after I had been diagnosed with celiac. I was equal parts elated to feel well and pissed off that I had this disease for years without knowing it. (Celiac is still the most under-diagnosed disease in the United States.) I’ve always been a writer — crafting words into sentences is how I understand the world — so I started writing. For months I had been so sick that my friend Dorothy called me the sick girl. When I was diagnosed and started to feel healthy, Dorothy proclaimed, “You’re no longer the sick girl. You’re the gluten-free girl!” When I started a site on blogger, I called it gluten-free girl. I liked the alliteration. I never imagined anyone reading it.
Nearly a year later, there were plenty of people reading this site. And then I met Danny, a professional chef. For awhile, I wrote the site without him. But after our daughter was born, and we started writing cookbooks, it became a joint venture. I changed the name to gluten-free girl and the chef soon after. It stayed that way for awhile. But eventually, when we began our own flour company, and imagining products we could sell, we realized gluten-free girl and the chef is too much of a mouthful. Danny’s a mensch. He doesn’t need his title in the site. So it’s back to gluten-free girl.
Where do you live?
We live on a rural island in the Puget Sound called Vashon. It’s about a 15-minute ferry ride from Seattle but it seems like a world away. Vashon is the same length as Manhattan, about 2 miles wider, and there are about 10,000 of us here. (That’s in the summer. In February, when it’s gloomy and people aren’t living in their summer houses, it’s about 7,000.) I sometimes call it Wacko Island, with the most endearing of intentions. Fact is, you don’t live on an island, which you can only reach by ferry, unless you’re interested in escaping the rest of the world. It’s slow here. We like it that way. Kids don’t have to grow up fast here. Someone who moved here wrote a piece about Vashon for The New York Times and he had the best line to describe this place: “Vashon retains its Mayberry-meets-Burning-Man character.” Yep. This is a small town on a rural island with a lot of artists, close enough to a city to make us semi-urban.
Vashon has dozens of small organic farms that grow beets, kale, and Japanese turnips. You drive up to the farmstand and stuff your money in an empty coffee can, on the honor system. Nearly everyone here has a garden. We have a world-class coffee roasterie, a local distillery, and one of the best Thai restaurants I’ve ever visited. Vashon is like no other place we’ve ever been. It’s home for us, for sure. Our food is a product of this place.
Are you available for long-term partnerships with bigger companies?
You bet. For all inquiries, please contact Daniel Ryan Kinney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why are comments closed on the blog?
This was a tough decision. When I started the site in 2005, I was amazed when people began leaving comments. I loved the conversations and the community. Over time, however, the nature of the internet changed. Comments slowed down because people were talking to me on Twitter and the Facebook page and Instagram. Those are all places I like to be. The conversations there are good, each space different from the other. And over time, I noticed that almost all the comments that came directly into the site were asking questions about substitutions or snarky. (We no longer offer substitution suggestions and meanness is not accepted here.) I noticed that the quality of the comments that came in changed my writing. I no longer felt comfortable sharing my stories as freely when I thought I was writing them merely to inform or please. Writing is too important to me to lose it. And it’s only a very recent innovation that people can offer feedback immediately on a piece. (I often wonder what Jane Austen or Emily Dickinson would have done with the pace of the internet.)
So now, each piece is an offering. You can take away from it whatever you want. And if you want to contact me directly to continue the conversation, you can reach me at any of those media I mentioned above. You can also write to me at email@example.com.
Speaking of email, why haven’t you answered mine yet?
Oh my goodness, if only I had the time! We receive about 300 to 400 emails a day. If we’re going to keep cooking and writing, and keep up with the dishes, plus laugh and dance with our children? It’s not possible to answer every email. I wish I had 3 lives running on parallel tracks sometimes. Or, an assistant.
Who takes the photographs for gluten-free girl?
Shauna here. I love looking for light. I don’t consider myself a professional photographer but an enthusiastic amateur, still. I started taking the photographs on a point and shoot, then I bought a very old Nikon D100 from someone on Craigslist to feel a big camera in my hands. Back then, I did all my photo editing on Flickr. Eventually, I sold all the Nikon lenses I found at garage sales and estate sales and bought a Canon 6D, with a 24-105 lens. I love that camera, even if I don’t feel like I entirely understand it. That makes me love it more. I’m still at beginner’s mind with it. I’m still dreaming of this lens. Maybe someday.
I hack around on Lightroom, learning what I can from photos of possibility made a little better with fiddling.
Sometimes I take Polaroid photos with my Polaroid land camera, then scan the photos in. If the film weren’t so expensive, I’d do that more often.
Can I use one of your photographs for my blog?
Everything you see on this site is protected by copyright. Please do not use any photos or words of mine without asking first. Thank you.
Can I advertise on gluten-free girl?
We run our own sponsorship program for the site, which I detail here.
We’re also part of the Amazon Associates program, which means we earn a small amount of money every time you click on a link we provide and purchase something on Amazon. That modest monthly check helps keep us in gluten-free flour and ingredients for recipe development. We’re also associates for the Provisions shop at Food52. We love them.
But we have a great new product we want to send you, then ask you to write about it for free.
No, thank you.
Do you accept guest posts?
Are you still enjoying writing gluten-free girl, even after a decade?
More than I will ever be able to say. Life as I know it exists because of this site. I met my husband online, but I sent him the link to this place before we met. He said he fell in love with me, in some part, because I loved food so much. Without him, there would be no children or cookbooks or the friends we have made or the places we have visited.
Because of gluten-free girl, life is always an adventure. I’m so grateful.
the long story (and I mean really long)
Hi. My name is Shauna James Ahern. I am alive.
I have been alive since August of 1966. Or, should I say, I have been on this earth since then. I haven’t always been alive. For much of my life, I felt lousy. Low in energy. Sick and sometimes depressed. I didn’t know why.
Still, I survived. And I laughed deep from my belly, in most moments of the day.
(Well, except for those six months in the seventh grade I was so embarrassed of my loud laugh that I forced myself to let out only a tiny heh.) I adore being here. I am constantly amazed by life and frequently struck by the absurdity of it. Mostly, I’m grateful.
And I’ve been writing about all of this from the moment I could pick up a pen and put words on the page. I’m a writer. I write about little moments of being awake in the world. Sometimes, I write to remind myself to wake up.
For much of my life, I was a high-school English teacher, first on Vashon Island, in Washington state, and then in Seattle. Between those two teaching times, I lived in Manhattan, tutored child actors, ran a screenplay-editing business, and rollerbladed on the streets to work. (That was dumb.) For a time, I lived in London, where I edited a book for a famous person. (I can’t tell you who it was. I’m contractually obligated to remain mum on this one.) Everything I have ever done for money had to do with words and helping other people with their words. (Okay, those eight weeks I was a terrified waitress excepted.)
Now, I am writing, full-time. My dream came true.
I am the daughter of two incredible people, the sister of a remarkable man, the sister-in-law of some phenomenal women and men, and now the aunt of a line of kids ranging from three years old to a married 32-year-old. (There used to be just Elliott, but getting married meant I inherited cool nieces and nephews too.) I am blessed with friends who make me laugh, tease the hell out of me, feed me in every way, and mostly don’t read this website. (They’d actually rather talk to me than read the stories.)
And now, at the heart of everything I do, and the monikers of which I’m most proud? I am the wife of my tender-hearted, hilarious husband and the mother of our darling daughter and son.
Oh, and by the way, like millions of humans in the world, I have to live gluten-free. I have celiac disease, although I chafe at the word disease. Being diagnosed with celiac changed my life, in ways that I could never stop listing. Now, I am no longer low energy, prone to falling ill, or depressed. Now, I am free. Now, I am alive.
And I don’t miss gluten at all.
Way back in May 2005 .
taken on April 20, 2005 ten days before diagnosis
taken in early June, 2005 one month after being gluten-free
In the early spring of 2005, I was terribly ill. My body required 18 hours of sleep a day, my stomach ached all the time, and I could barely move without hurting. Doctors ordered one medical test after another, and none of them yielded answers. (The low point is when I endured a colonoscopy and endoscopy on the same day. Bleh.) All I could eat was soft bread, chicken noodle soup, and crackers. No one understood why I was so ill.
It had been a hard few years. In the winter of 2001, I suffered pneumonia for the sixth time in my life. In the beginning of 2003, I required emergency abdominal surgery for a fibroid tumor that had grown to the size of a grapefruit. In the winter of 2003, I was t-boned by another car, in a terrible accident that changed my life. My body reminded me, every day, how lucky I was to be alive, with pain from the injuries that didn’t go away. Just as I was starting to recover, I fell into that crisis of 2005.
It started to feel like I would never be well.
After all those tests, and no answers, I started to despair. A friend of mine who had been a nurse all her life confided in me later, I thought you were terminal. So did I.
Then, a friend of mine called me from Maine, to say she had just heard a story on celiac disease, the most under-diagnosed disease in the States. It sounded like me. I googled it, and found myself in the symptoms. Two years before, in an effort to find my energy, I had given up wheat for six weeks. I felt fantastic, but I slipped back into it. Remembering, my body jolted. What else could it be?
And why had I never heard of this before?
My gastroenterologist refused to test me for it, even though it only required a blood test before I could stop eating gluten. He refused. Actually, he had his nurse call me. Celiac is really rare, she said on the message. That’s a long shot. Well talk about it during your follow-up in two weeks.
Heck with that. I knew my body, exhausted as it was. At this point, I was down to eating a jar of baby food a day. I wanted to start living again.
I went to another doctor, who did the blood test. I stopped eating gluten.
I have never gone back since.
At the end of the first day without gluten, I felt some energy. My stomach didnt hurt when I ate. On the second day, I didn’t need a five-hour nap. On the third day, my brain fog cleared, as though my contacts had been cleaned for the first time.
When I received the official diagnosis — you have celiac — I clapped my hands and said yes! The doctor was a little surprised to see my celebration.
The gastroenterologist was even more surprised, the next week, when I showed up for my follow-up appointment in great health, blood test results in hand. He confirmed it I have celiac. And he left the room, embarrassed.
I’m not the only one who had to fight her way through the medical system to receive the correct diagnosis and become healthy for the first time in my life. Americans have to wait an average of 11 years, and many doctors, before finally being diagnosed. It is estimated that 1 out of 100 Americans has celiac disease. Only 7 or 8% of us have been diagnosed.
We have to change this.
After I was diagnosed, I felt reborn. I became a self I had never been before.
And I started writing about it. About amaranth and quinoa, ume plum vinegar, how to braise a lamb shank, and the life of food I began to live. I wrote to teach, to lead other people to the awakeness I was feeling. I love the fascination of the human body; I dissected cadavers in high school. (It was for an advanced biology class.) And yet, I had never heard of the condition that had been commanding me all my life.
I did the only thing I knew how to do. I began to write.
And thus, this website was born.
Gluten-free woman just doesnt have the same ring.
When I had been so sick, my friend Dorothy came over, many times, to bring me food and commiserate. When I just didn’t improve and grew worse and worse each week she said, in exasperation one day: We’re just going to have to call you the sick girl.
When I was finally diagnosed, and told Dorothy about it, she said, ironically, Oh, were going to have to call you the Gluten-Free Girl!
I never thought people would stop me at the farmers market and exclaim, Oh, you’re the Gluten-Free Girl, aren’t you? I certainly never thought I would see that phrase on the cover of my first book.
I just liked the alliteration.
Focusing on the food.
When I first started eating hot food again, I was moved to tears by the physical sensation of it sliding down my throat. It had been so long since I had been able to take pleasure in food.
I have always loved food. Every story I share with my dear friend Sharon seems to involve food, of some kind (and falling down). Even though I ate a requisite number of processed foods when growing up (I was born in the late 60s remember, so I was raised on Wonder Bread), my mother was a good cook. She could bake like no one’s business. And over the years, I started going to farmers markets, cooking with good olive oil, and eating food from recipes that originated from outside the boundaries of the United States.
But it wasnt until I was diagnosed with celiac that I truly started focusing on the food.
Food is the path to healing in celiac. There is no pill we can take, no surgery we can endure, and in fact, no cure other than living on an entirely gluten-free diet. Some find that distressing. I find it a blessing.
In order to be well, I have to eat well. I have to feed myself. I have to live in food.
I started taking photographs of my foods as soon as I was diagnosed. Having been so weak and in pain, I had not been able to write. I needed that creative outlet. But more than that, being able to eat again — after at least six weeks of eating bananas and baby food — made me see. Food is so beautiful. The vivid oranges of baby carrots, the fuzzy hair on a soft peach, the little white rings on red quinoa in a skillet, the crumbling flakes of dark chocolate on a cutting board: everything attracted my eye.
I began taking photographs of my meals. I haven’t stopped since.
From May 2005 to July of 2006, I took photographs with my little Nikon Coolpix.
In July of 2006, I switched to a Fujifilm Finepix.
And in the winter of 2007, I bought the body of a Nikon D-100, and a 2.8 35-70mm lens. It has a wonderful macro capability, which is why I bought it from a professional photographer in Seattle, who needed to move to a different system. That lens has been around the world, taking photographs of people living with AIDS in Kenya, and women singing in Morocco.
That camera had good karma.
Now, I use a Canon 6D. I’m saving up for the good lens. But this camera? It’s like magic. I love playing with light in a new way.
And then there was the Chef.
When I was diagnosed, I had a visceral understanding that I was now a self I had never been before. And I needed some time to myself. I decided to take a year off from dating at all.
Four days to the year, I met the Chef.
I knew, at once. This is the love of my life. But I held off for six weeks from writing about him on this site. I had to be sure. I knew that once I began writing about him here, everything would change.
From the first post I wrote about him (Meet the Chef), until the post about our honeymoon (la luna di miele), there has not been a single piece I have written here without his influence infused into the words. He lends tender-heartedness, a ribald sense of humor, real working-mans hands, slow-braised flavors, and a wonderful practicality to everything here.
This is our website now.
This man makes me feel alive. He makes me laugh, teases me, feeds me, listens to me, wakes up in the morning with me and says, I love you, sweetie.
He is also the most talented chef I have ever met.
Within a few months of our falling in love, the Chef started changing his menus. He always found a way to feed me safely when I went into his restaurant. He understood the details of living gluten-free, immediately. The Chef loves and lives in food like no one else I have ever known. For him, cooking gluten-free was a compelling challenge, a chance to discover foods he had never eaten.
But one day, I looked up after typing up the next months menu, and said, Hey honey. I can eat everything on this menu.
I know, he said.
What have you done?
And he said, quite simply, You are my muse. I dont want to create another dish, and be excited by it, and find I can’t share it with you. I’m just going to make everything gluten-free from now on.
And he still does.
Oh, how I love him.
For quite awhile, I just referred to him as the Chef on this site. Some readers wrote to me to ask: Why do you call him the Chef? Why don’t you just use his name?
He preferred it that way.
When I first met him, I refereed to him as the Chef when I talked to my friends. After so many bad experiences with dates, I didn’t want to trust and even say his name. This only lasted about a week — he walked right into my heart — but the name stuck.
And when I first began writing about him, I wanted to somehow maintain some anonymity for him. He wasnt writing this. He read and approved of every piece, but still. He hadn’t originated this. And really, it was the only way to represent him. He is, in his heart, a chef. He lives in food. He works crazy hours. His hands are covered in burns and scars. And he expresses his love for humanity through his food.
He cooks because he can give people joy in the belly.
And really, it just stuck. When people come into his restaurant after reading this website, they often shriek a little and say, Oh, you’re the Chef!
He loved it.
So, the Chef it was.
After our daughter was born, and we endured the scary time in the ICU with her, and major surgery, and experienced more joy in being her parents than we could have ever predicted, it started to seem silly to refer to him as the Chef. And so, he became Danny.
But, for the record, his full name is Daniel Fitzgerald Ahern.
He’s my husband and I love him.
How we eat around here.
Anyone who thinks that living gluten-free is deprivation? Come on over here for dinner.
We live in food. Food, to us, is sensuality and texture, kindness and laughter, being alive and in love. Roasted potatoes with sea salt. Cinnamon-walnut scones. Crispy pork belly. Mixed green salads with champagne vinaigrette. Pizza with prosciutto, chanterelle mushrooms, and goat cheese. Fig cookies. Scrambled eggs. Sauted black kale. Shaved fennel with lemon. One crisp apple.
Food doesn’t have to be expensive to be spectacular. Sure, ‘Ive eaten foie gras a few times, and I love truffles after being in Italy. But one perfect peach, in late July, is true richness to me.
It’s about the best ingredients. Food in season, in an awake moment, with the right person. That’s great food.
We shop at farmers markets as much as we can. We know the men who sell us fish by first name. We look for truly great olive oil. We allow ourselves to be surprised by good food. We feel fresh to it, every day. We like great spices and creamy butter and gelato in Italy (but not anywhere else). We eat the best food we can find in the places we find ourselves. We love to share.
There is so much to learn. When do I salt the food? How much vinegar should I use? What does a cross between a peach and an apricot taste like? Where do I find the best locally raised, grass-fed lamb? How would those brownies taste with sorghum flour instead? I love this.
We love the people who grow our food.
One of our purest pleasures is sitting at the table with our kids, enjoying a meal we made together. Desmond says “Yumma yumma!” and digs in for more. Lucy is proud of the part she played in making the meal. Danny and I grin at each other over the table and eat more, laughing.
In the end, that’s all that really matters.
As a kid, I always dreamed of being a writer. One of the literary kinds. Not the one whose books would be produced in thick, cheap paperbacks that fall apart halfway through the read. No, as much as I thrilled to the sound of The Beatles “Paperback Writer,” I had higher aspirations.
After all that reading, all those books or actually, after reading my first book, long ago, before I had the words to say it, I knew that I wanted to write. And not just write. I was going to write the books that transported everyone else away. And they’d make my book into a movie, and I’d never have to borrow books from the library again.
No one has made a movie out of cookbooks yet. That’s no longer my aspiration. However, four times I have held a new book I wrote in my hands. And every time?
Well, that little girl was cheering.
This has been a journey, a story of transformation. I loved food, from the moment I could eat it. But that food didn’t always love me back. Throughout my life, I was frequently sick, mostly fatigued, and sometimes at war with my own body. After I was diagnosed with celiac disease, and I stopped eating gluten, I finally learned to find food that would feed me.
And so Danny and I started creating that food in my food memoir, then our cookbooks.
I want to help everyone to finally recognize his or her own story.
My food memoir, Gluten-Free Girl.
This book is a love story. It’s the story of a love affair with food, and finding everything that I can eat, joyfully. It’s a story about slowing down and appreciating my life. It’s a story about forging a new relationship with my body, and learning to love the life I have. It’s a story about eating local, eating organic, and eating in season. It’s a story about finding the self I never was, for the first 38 years of my life, and reveling in that self.
And of course, it is an actual love story as well. It can’t surprise anyone to know that the last chapter of this book is about meeting the Chef.
Our first cookbook: Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story in 100 Tempting Recipes.
This was three years of our joint effort, the two of us pouring our hearts and laughter into recipes you can make at home.
We just want you to cook and feel comfortable in your kitchen. We just want you to taste how delicious gluten-free can be.
If you think that living gluten-free means deprivation? You won’t feel that way once you make duck confit with Umbrian lentils, seared shrimp with Marcona almond sauce, and the blue cheese cheesecake with a fig crust.
Plus, there is pizza, pasta, and bread. Good ones.
We love this cookbook. So do many others. We were humbled and still amazed that The New York Times named our cookbook one of the best of 2010.
We think you’ll like it too.
Our next cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day. It’s a cookbook for busy families who still love cooking. We show you how to set up a pantry, how to make a big enough pot of whole grains to eat them all week, how to break down a chicken and use all the parts in a dinner, and how make a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix to make fluffy biscuits and sausage gravy, grilled pizza, and apple pie.
Our latest cookbook, American Classics Reinvented. It’s crowd sourced, the recipes created for the benefit of the hundreds and hundreds of people across the United States who wrote to us, saying they missed red velvet cake, sourdough bread, macaroni and cheese, and pecan pie. It’s a book full of comfort food, gluten-free. And really, it’s a book about a longing satisfied. You can take this food to any party you attend and people will happily share it with you.
We’re very proud of these books.
That’s all I need to say.
La Dolce Vita, senza glutine.
Some people ask why I don’t write in every piece here about gluten-free.
I am alive. That life involves being gluten-free, but there are so many more parts to it: funny stories, exhilarating travel, tender moments with my husband, discoveries in mouthfuls, falling down and laughing at myself, and learning how to live in the moment, every moment I am alive.
When we were in Italy for our honeymoon, we were both astonished to discover how easy it was for me to eat gluten-free. All I had to say was “Io sono celiaco.” Waiters and chefs understood. They pointed out the dishes I could eat, and then brought me plates of black-truffle risotto, or sizzling beefsteak, or a saucer of perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes so vividly colored that I had to blink twice before looking at them. And that was it. No explanations or apologies. I simply ate gluten-free and went onto other conversations around the table.
The sweet life. Italians call it la dolce vita. And in order to remain well there, sometimes I simply said senza glutine (without gluten).
That’s what I’d like to bring here. La dolce vita, senza glutine. I want to show you a vibrant life, filled with hilarious adventures and quiet contemplation. Stories of saying yes to life.
All of it, gluten-free.
Oh, and should you wish to reach us, drop us a line at
I wish that I could answer all the emails I receive. I can’t respond because there is a growing mound of dishes in the sink that I should probably put in the dishwasher before midnight. But just know that I read every email.
And we adore you.