Review | The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook by Judith Finlayson



Some folks thing giving up gluten-bearing wheat, barley, and rye means a lifetime sentence to rice side dishes. Now, I happen to like rice in all its various forms and flavors, but even I’d get tired of it if that was my only grain option!

This is, of course, not the case even if you just expand your horizons only as far as oats and corn. And then there’s quinoa–a pseudo-grain (really a seed) that is becoming quite popular and is tasty source of plant protein, millet–a cost-effective option but you might have to look for it in health-food stores, and wild rice (another seed); chances are you’ve heard of more than a few of these, too.

In The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook, the author also digs deeper into other grains like amaranth, buckwheat, Job’s tears, and sorghum–all of which might be tough to find in smaller cities, at least in raw material form. I find amaranth in my new-favorite gluten-free cereal option (Mesa Sunrise), and buckwheat I can find in mixes and soba noodles (not that we’ll be seeking those out any time soon after the last reminder that their flavor is somewhat of an acquired taste), and sorghum in flour-form that I use in my gluten-free baking.

This book is actually an update of Finlayson’s The Complete Whole Grains Cookbook from 2008, an update made necessary by her realization that she “wasn’t [her] optimal self much of the time” while on a diet that included a lot of wheat, even in its whole-grain forms. The symptoms she describes are very similar to many of the stories I’ve encountered learning about the Low-FODMAP diet, so it does make me wonder if she’s heard of it or not. Of course, Low-FODMAP recognizes that it’s the fructans in wheat, barley, and rye causing the issues, and not the gluten, but gluten-free is easy short-hand these days, widely recognized and, in marketing terms, a goldmine buzzword.

And seeing as I’m following said Low-FODMAP diet, the book was a treasure trove of inspiration for interesting main and side dishes as well as baking recipes, even if many had to be altered to eliminate the onions and garlic.

I feel I should warn you–the pictures and descriptions below might make you very, very hungry.

One Sunday when our gaming friends weer over, I prepared her Zucchini Fritters (p.50) but opted to cook them on my electric griddle instead of deep fry them. While crispy-fried deliciousness is not something I’m against, it was easier to prepare them this way and they were just as tasty.

Zucchini Fritters from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Zucchini Fritters–griddled instead of pan-fried but still delicious!

For that same group I also turned out these amazing Oatmeal Shortbread Squares (p.198) which were a snap to prepare in my food processor. At first I wondered about cutting the 8-inch pan of shortbread into 25 servings, but these shortbread squares are so very rich and buttery–one friend called them cookie dough cookies–that a small square is enough, even though you’ll likely go back for seconds.

Oatmeal Shortbread Squares from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Oatmeal Shortbread Squares–these are dangerously simple to prepare, serve with coffee or milk to cut the richness

You know what’s really gratifying? Preparing foods that are a step away from the norm (gluten-free, vegan, whatever) and having someone say they wouldn’t have known the difference. My guests went so far as to say if the manufactured gluten-free foods tasted as good as the ones I made them, gluten-free wouldn’t have nearly the bad reputation it did. And that, my friends, is a mark totally in favor of cooking from scratch, just in case you needed the motivation.

Of course, it wasn’t just entertaining we used this cookbook for, Finlayson’s recipes also figured highly into our weeknight meals. When tracking down the millet for her Curried Sweet Potato and Millet Soup (p.72) I was astonished to find that it was so inexpensive and am looking forward to using it more.

Curried Sweet Potato and Millet Soup from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Curried Sweet Potato and Millet Soup

This soup started out incredibly liquid but once the millet cooked it had turned into this wonderfully rich, creamy and filling soup. Since I’m still short a good source for lactose-free plain yogurt (come on Whole Foods, build faster!) I topped this soup with shredded cheese instead.

Southwest Turkey Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Southwest Turkey Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings

I converted her Southwest Turkey Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings (p.115) into a crock-pot meal. Just put everything for the soup in together and let it go 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low, them mix up the dumpling batter and drop it on about 20 minutes before you’re ready to eat (switch up to high if you had it on low, before). We also decided that next time we make this–in the slow cooker or not–we’ll leave out the optional chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, the stew was more than a little spicy between it and the fresh jalapeno!

Peppery Shrimp with Quinoa from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Peppery Shrimp with Quinoa–similar to fried rice but just different enough.

And I’m not the one one who has enjoyed cooking from her book, Todd took a stroll through the pages and found a couple recipes he wanted to try, like this Peppery Shrimp with Quinoa (p.126) and her Cuban-Style Hash with Fried Pantains (p.140).

Cuban-Style Hash with Fried Plantains from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Cuban-Style Hash with Fried Plantains–when you cut through the egg, the yolk flows down and creates a layer of flavor and richness with the spicy beef and rice below. So good!

Of course, when Fat Tuesday rolled around we just had to give her Jambalaya (p.107) a try.

Jambalaya from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Jambalaya: spicy rice studded with shrimp, chicken, and sausage.

Finally, another slow-cooked favorite of ours from this book was the Pork Pozole (p.146). Served with corn chips or warmed corn tortillas it was a messy, but delicious meal.

Pork Pozole from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Pork Pozole topped with shredded cheese (because everything is better with cheese)

The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook is filled with 125 wonderful recipes, mouth-watering photographs, nutritional information for each recipe and plenty of tips for adding more whole grains to your diet, whether you’re gluten-free or not.


I was provided a copy of The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own (except where noted when a friend expressed a thought or two about the food).

Breaking Bread


“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” –James Beard (1903-1985)

Is there anything better than the smell of fresh-baked bread? The sight of butter melting on it or the chewy feel of it between your teeth?

I think not.

But it is, in many circles, a lost art.

Common theory is that baking bread is too hard. Nonsense. It’s a very basic skill to learn but there are some pitfalls that, once learned, making your chances of success that much better.

When it comes to dealing with yeast…

  • Proofing yeast (mixing it with warm water and a little bit of sugar) is not essential these days with the easy access of commercial, but it does jump-start your dough and can’t hurt.
  • Liquid too hot (140 degrees F) will kill yeast.
  • Liquids added to yeast for proofing should be between 90 and 110 degrees F while rising is best done in an area in the 70 to 90-degree range.
  • To slow down rising, it’s okay to pop the dough in your refrigerator.


  • Flour is often listed in a range because the water content of the flour can change from bag to bag, day to day based on the flour and the relative humidity.
  • Weights are more reliable that volume measures and a good digital kitchen scale is a low-cost investment that will pay off exponentially!
  • The ratio of dry ingredients to wet is pretty important. If you’re going to mix anything into a basic bread recipe, wait until the first rise has completed if there’s any chance it’s going to throw off that balance.
  • When doubling a bread recipe, only use 1.5 times the amount of yeast.


  • Develops the gluten–protein framework–of the bread which gives the bread that chewy texture.
  • The sturdier the finished product, the more kneading it requires.
  • Under-kneaded dough won’t have enough support for the rising that will happen in the oven, resulting in flatter loaves with uneven texture.
  • Can be done with the hook of your electric mixer but it’s a really good arm workout, too.
  • Be careful of adding too much flour during kneading, you’ll weight the dough down too much–just enough to keep it from sticking to the counter-top and your hands for the first few minutes of kneading, after that it should no longer be sticky (unless it’s a sweet dough, that will stay sticky–don’t fight it!).


  • Want a golden crust? Add at least 1 Tbsp sugar to the dry ingredients to get that great caramel color. Alternately, an egg wash will give you a nice, glossy surface.
  • Always preheat your oven and don’t over-crowd. Individual items and pans should have a minimum of 1 inch of space around them so air can circulate.
  • Rotate your pan(s) half-way through cooking but, otherwise, don’t open the oven if you can help it.
  • To get that quintessential thick and chewy French-bread crust, place an empty pan on the bottom rack of the oven as it preheats, then add cool water to the pan when you place the dough on the rack above. Steam during the initial baking phase is what makes French bread, French bread.

It’s interesting that, back in the old (very old, feudal old) days, the finer the society, the finer the flour. Whole grains and mixed wheat was the bread of the commoner while the fine, white flours were the stuff of luxury. Granted, those “whole grains” were usually the leftovers of the milling process bulked up with sand or other things (seriously, you don’t want to know), making for hard, dark loaves–but the hardier grains they did include were basically healthier than the more expensive white flours of the nobility.

These days the tables have turned.  A loaf of refined white flour, cushy and soft is still available for a buck or just over, making it more accessible to the lower-income brackets while whole grain breads are now prized for the health benefits and, generally, carry a price tag triple of it’s over-processed, bleached brethren.

Bread gets a bad rap these days–it’s carb central, after all. But, as more and more are learning, all carbs are not created equal, and whole grains provide a powerhouse of nutrients and energy that our bodies need. Bread doesn’t have to be the bad guy if we make smart choices and keep it in moderation.

Just a little food for though whether you’re making or buying your daily bread.


Have any bread-baking horror stories? Share in the comments and I might just have a solution for you. Also welcome are stories of triumph, love for your bread machine or questions about baking in general.