Gluten Free in Lizard Lick
By Amy Shirley
Suzy Chase: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book podcast, with me Suzy Chase.
Amy Shirley: Hi! This is Amy Shirley, and my cookbook is "Gluten-Free in Lizard Lick."
Suzy Chase: In my mind, going gluten-free seems to be so much harder, than let's say, going vegan. Why and how did you make the change to a gluten-free lifestyle?
Amy Shirley: Well I had to make the change to a gluten-free lifestyle because actually, I got diagnosed with the allergy of gluten. Let me just tell you, living in the south, it's very hard to go gluten-free.
Suzy Chase: I bet.
Amy Shirley: Everything is southern fried and everything is deep fried, and I mean, usually, you know, if you go to a Sunday dinner then you're definitely looking at a five-layer chocolate cake, and it definitely is not gluten-free. You know, so it wasn't a choice that I really wanted to make but it was a choice that I had to make about two years ago. My doctor told me that ... At first they thought, I had all the same signs and symptoms as a cancer patient. They had thought at first, you know because, at the time my white blood count was down, but I think what it was is I was sick and I was catching an infection at the same time. Thank God I got cleared of that. I have no cancer or anything like that, but he ended up sending me to a GI specialist and the GI specialist told me, he said, "Amy," said, "you're suffering from Celiac's and you know, you have a couple other things that you may be allergic to." To add with gluten, I'm also allergic to sulfites and my body does not process sugars very well.
Suzy Chase: What are sulfites, and are they in wine?
Amy Shirley: Yes. Sulfites are in your wines, and honestly, what I have known to ... What I have learned, that has been some of the ... That has helped me out, just ... I can't tell everybody about their body, but I can tell you from my experience that if I stay away from anything that is high-sugar, such as wine, then I'm usually pretty good. Sulfites are also ... If you go into the cosmetic section, or into a lotion section, which is, this is something people really don't think about, they're in that too. Not only can you also ingest gluten and sulfites, you can also apply them to your body.
Suzy Chase: Yeah, I read that in your book and I saw they're in shampoos too.
Amy Shirley: I mean I had to change a ... I had to come into a whole new way of life, which was very hard for me because it's very confusing when you've done something for so many years of your life and you know what something tastes like, and you are in repetition, and you're comfortable in your lifestyle. Then all of a sudden somebody says, "Well, guess what. Today this isn't going to work for you, so we're going to change you around and see how you survive."
Suzy Chase: What exactly is gluten and how is it so disruptive?
Amy Shirley: When I go into restaurants, a lot of people in North Carolina do not know what gluten is. Gluten is barley, wheat, or rye. A lot of times when I say that they're like, "What?" I say, "Okay, layman's terms." This is what I tell people. "Any breads, don't let it touch my plate. Anything that has carbohydrates, don't let it touch my plate." I don't even want it to touch my plate. When I go into a restaurant, I know that I'm good if I get a steak and I get some kind of fresh vegetables. Other than that, I can't tell you if I'm good or if I'm not good. Most of the time when you say "gluten," everybody looks at you and they're like, "What?" When you say, "Barley, wheat, or rye," they still kind of look at you like, "Okay, well, so you just can't have bread." No. It's more than just bread. A lot of times I break it down for people when I ... You know, there's certain chains of restaurants that I will go into and it's usually ones that I'm accustomed to going into, and I know that they'll take care of me.
Suzy Chase: In terms of meals, what does your typical day look like? Do you make one thing for your husband and kids and then another for yourself?
Amy Shirley: No, not really. My husband actually, when we eat, he tries to eat like me. Just because he knows that I can't eat that way, and he doesn't really want to eat that way in front of me. He's a real supportive husband, so he said, "No, no, I'll do this!" He's actually lost like, 65 lbs. because he cut out all his breads. You know, he cut out like ... You know, you're cutting out a lot of cakes and stuff like that, that sit really heavy on your stomach. That's another thing I tell people about gluten. I said, "Most of your gluten when you ingest it, when you ingest it and when you feel when you're done at the end of that dinner and you're like, 'Man, my stomach's so heavy,' that's your gluten kicking in." I always tell people, "When you start eating gluten-free, most of the time you don't get that heavy feeling in your stomach anymore." It's, you know, it's not like, that you've sit there and ate a whole loaf of bread and you're going to pop.
Suzy Chase: You know, it's interesting that you say that because last night for dinner I made your Jalapeño, Shrimp, and Cilantro Rice recipe from page 154, but I didn't have that feeling at the end of the meal of, "Uhh, I just ate rice."
Amy Shirley: I tell people one of my favorite places to eat, if I do eat out, is a Japanese steakhouse because they have jasmine rice, and that's fine. But if you go to the fried rices and you start mixing in the soy sauce, that's when you're going to have a problem because soy is not, soy sauce is not gluten-free.
Suzy Chase: As a 27 time World Powerlifter Champion, you make fitness a priority. Has your body changed after going gluten-free, or has it affected your strength at all?
Amy Shirley: I still work out, you know, just to keep myself in shape because when I was Powerlifting I herniated my L5 and pinched the nerve in my L4 in my back. I'm really careful with what I do because I do have an injured back but, you know, I don't think going gluten-free has changed anything for me because I ... it's not the gluten that's going to give you any strength at all, it's your protein. When you take the gluten out you replace it with something else, so if you replace it with protein you're going to be stronger.
Suzy Chase: What was the first gluten-free recipe you ever made?
Amy Shirley: Oh, oh! My cake-
Suzy Chase: Oh, that's the first recipe in the book.
Amy Shirley: Yes. I am a very, very, very big sweets person. It's really ironic because when I first got diagnosed I didn't know what to do. I had called ... I was talking to my lawyer, which is, this is just, it just fell into play this way, and he said, "Amy," he said, "Let me introduce you to somebody." Her name was [Karen 00:06:50] and it's actually his fiance, and she is a gluten-free chef out of Texas. She helped me so much because she told me, she said, "Look," she said, "I know you're stressing about it," she said, "but let me tell you some things you can do." I told her, I said, "Well my biggest thing right now is, is that I really would like cake." And she was like, "What? I was like, "Yeah!" I was like, "If you live in the south, sweets and fried food are a big thing." I said, "It's like I've given up everything." I said, "The one thing I never wanted to give up was a piece of cake." She said, "Well, I'll tell you what you do ... " Me and her got to talking, and lo and behold, I just wanted a simple cake with icing on it, that's it. So I made my 1-2-3-4 Cake and I was a happy girl.
Suzy Chase: Looking at that recipe, it doesn't look like you're missing out on anything a regular cake would have.
Amy Shirley: No, not at all. All you're doing is just replacing the flour with a gluten-free flour.
Suzy Chase: Give us your gluten-free kitchen rules.
Amy Shirley: The way that my kitchen is set up is, my kids know that there's certain things that are mine and there's certain things that are theirs. When you have a house that ... I have four kids, and I have two kids that don't mind eating gluten-free, doesn't bother them at all. Then I have two other kids, they're like, "Oh my gosh, I just don't want to eat gluten-free." They just don't want to do it, you know, and I understand. What I do is I separate things, like my toaster. There's four slots for bread. My gluten-free bread goes in two slots, and their bread goes in the other two slots, and it's labeled. They know. Everything in my kitchen is labeled. Basically it's flawless-proof. I also have, when you look in my refrigerator, there's certain shelves that I put my stuff on. There's certain shelves that I keep their stuff on. I actually, because I just, me and my husband just built a new house, we actually put a hibachi in. That's now normally what I cook my gluten-free food off of. Any of my meats and stuff like that ... I make sure that everything is really clean, everything is really sterile, because another thing people don't realize is that not only can the gluten get you, but the gluten from the other food ... You can do a cross-contamination and you can still have the same allergy depending on how severe your allergy is. We do a lot of meet and greets, and we travel via the reality TV show, Lizard Lick Towing. I was in the mountains and I did not drink a lot of water that day. I woke up at about three in the morning, and this is right before we really realized what was kicking off these allergies. I dropped down, probably about 25 lbs. I woke up and I was really, really nauseous, and I was trying to make it to the bathroom and I caught leg cramps. I remember doing an army crawl to the bathroom. At that point in time I said to myself, "I will never go through this again." I think the next day I was on the phone with the GI specialist and I stayed on him until we figured out what was wrong with me.
Suzy Chase: I love how you grouped all of the photos together at the beginning.
Amy Shirley: Well, when I did this cookbook, I tell you what, I honestly ... I sat down and I said, "Well ... " My biggest thing was, I didn't want anybody to miss out on anything and I feel that sometimes when you get food allergies ... If you're born with them, I think you really don't know if you miss out on it or not, because you've never had it before.
Suzy Chase: Right.
Amy Shirley: Actually, like I did, obtain the allergy at a later age, then you know what banana pudding tastes like, you know what other things taste like. What I did with this book is I said, "You know what?" I said, "I want to do at least 100 recipes, but I want them to be everything that I've ever eaten in my whole entire life. I just want to change all the ingredients in them, and I want to show people that you can still eat the same way, but you just got to alter it a little bit." Then what I did, is I said ... The other thing is, I'm a working mom with four kids. I don't want to stand over a stove for 2 hours to cook a meal. I said, "If I can't do it in 35 minutes or less, I don't want to do it."
Suzy Chase: What's your favorite recipe from the book?
Amy Shirley: There's one in there called Jessie-Mae's Meatballs Po' Boy, and that's on page 94. My mom used to make those, and I just altered some of her ingredients that she used to do, and that's probably one of my favorites. The Amy's Hot, I Mean Burning Hot Wings on page 82, those are some of my favorites. If I had to pick just one, I'm going to go ahead and tell you, it's going to be in the sweets department. It's going to be between the banana pudding and the 1-2-3-4 Cake.
Suzy Chase: Okay.
Amy Shirley: Those are going to be my two picks. I will tell you, my father-in-law, which is Ronnie's dad, he doesn't eat gluten-free, but we had had a dinner and I said, "Well I'm just going to put my banana pudding up there, and I'm not going to tell anybody about it." He went back for seconds. He's like the biggest critic on food. He said, "Who made this?" And I said, "Why, what's wrong with it?" And he said, "Nothing, it's actually really good." I said, "Oh, well I just want to tell you that's gluten-free banana pudding." He about fell out of his chair.
Suzy Chase: Wow.
Amy Shirley: But he didn't know the difference! You know, other than it's not so ... It didn't have as much sugar as normal. He didn't know the difference.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web?
Amy Shirley: If you go to www.LizardLickTowing.com, it'll take you to ... If you scroll right to the bottom, it shows you every social media thing I have. I have Twitter, I have Facebook, I have Instagram, which I'm very active on my Instagram, my Twitter, and my Vine.
Suzy Chase: Thanks Amy, for coming on Cookery by the Book.
Amy Shirley: Well thanks for having me y'all, I appreciate it.