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|Emily Gerson • 1/18/18|
The Short Version: Elana Amsterdam discovered she had celiac disease in the late 1990s, which forced her to go gluten-free before most of the world had ever heard of the concept. In 2006, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and learned that eating grain-free might help dampen the symptoms of the condition. To take her mind off her ailments and help others develop diets focused on well-being, she created Elana’s Pantry. The site has since become a popular destination where the health-conscious turn for wellness tips and a wealth of low-carb, gluten-free, and paleo recipes. Elana’s dishes also deliver a perfect way for couples to bond by creating nourishing, delicious meals for health-inspired date nights.
Awareness of gluten-related maladies has increased tremendously over the past decade. Today, most grocery stores have entire sections devoted to gluten-free foods, and many restaurants offer menu options that cater to the zero-wheat crowd. But, when Elana Amsterdam discovered she had celiac disease (a serious autoimmune condition that requires avoiding gluten) in the 1990s, almost nobody had heard of it.
Information on gluten-free lifestyles was nonexistent on the web, and there were certainly no gluten-alternative specialty items to be found in mainstream supermarkets. Elana was forced to get creative with her diet and learn how to craft delicious and nutritious gluten-free meals at home that kept her feeling good.
In 2006, another bomb was dropped on her. Elana was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which she said was devastating. She learned that gluten-free eating is recommended for MS, which she was already doing, but even better results could be achieved if other grains were also avoided. This compelled her to get even more imaginative in the kitchen. After perfecting a range of nourishing recipes and developing healthy-eating best practices, she decided to share her knowledge with the world through Elana’s Pantry.
“I started my blog to keep my mind off my diagnoses and to help others,” Elana said. “It’s been so uplifting for me. I love writing recipes, sharing health tips, and, more than anything, answering comments from readers.”
Since launching the site in 2006, Elana found eating low-carb was also helpful when dealing with inflammation and autoimmune conditions. So, in addition to gluten-free recipes, she began publishing more recipes that were low-carb, grain-free, and paleo. Thousands of health-conscious people, including couples, now turn to Elana’s Pantry to help them bond through cooking and creating memorable dinners.
Elana started her food blog as a way to lift her spirits during a tough time and concoct creative meals that fit her diet. Her boys were ages 6 and 7 when she started the blog, and she said they and her husband influenced what she cooked and published on the site.
While Elana’s Pantry started as just a small food blog, it has grown massively since its inception. Elana has benefited from the growing popularity of low-carb diets, and her site sorts recipes by diet types, including gluten-free, candida, paleo, ketogenic, and dairy-free.
Elana’s Pantry has scaled so much in recent years that she now receives around half a million page views each month, making it one of the most popular platforms in the paleo/low-carb food blog space. She also has a huge following on social media.
Elana’s devotees rave about how easy it is to make her tasty and uncomplicated dishes.
“Her recipes are so simple, easy, and delicious — just a few ingredients and done!” said reader Becca K.
“She makes the best recipes, and most only require five or six ingredients,” said Irene R., another fan of Elana’s dishes.
After experiencing massive popularity from readers and home chefs, Elana decided to go a step further and reach even more people by putting her recipes into cookbooks.
Since her MS diagnosis in 2006, she’s written three books — “The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook,” “Paleo Cooking,” and “Gluten-Free Cupcakes,” and they have all been well-received. The books were written with both beginners and culinary professionals in mind. Recipes are easy to follow, but are also quite refined and flavorful.
“My first book, ‘The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook’, was the first grain-free, paleo cookbook from a major publisher,” Elana said. “My third book, ‘Paleo Cooking’, is a New York Times bestseller that has been printed in several languages.”
As the title of her first book implies, Elana’s publications present readers alternatives to wheat-based products, including almond and coconut flours. Elana told us taste isn’t sacrificed when omitting gluten or excessive carbohydrates. In fact, the high-protein, high-fiber components of her dishes lead to well-formulated, delicious table fare that even those without dietary restrictions can make to impress dinner dates.
Elana’s recipes are ideal for everyone, from families to singles, but she said couples may especially enjoy getting to prepare her healthful recipes together.
“Spending time outdoors as a couple is one of my favorite things,” she said of her and her husband, “but we don’t always have time to fit that in our busy schedules. We have to eat, and cooking together is a fantastic way to slow down and bond.”
Elana told us she deliberately makes recipes super simple so that anyone can prepare them.
“That’s why my website is known as a great place for beginner cooks who want easy recipes that use healthy ingredients,” she said. “It’s the perfect place for a new couple that wants to learn to cook together!”
While Elana loves cooking as a bonding activity for couples, she also likes to make it a family affair. Cooking from scratch gives parents and children a way to share knowledge and learn together. She said her sons are always game to help prep meals. And, while he’s sometimes too tired from work, her husband still jumps at the chance to get in the kitchen and lend a hand.
“My big thing for mealtime is, if you’re too tired to pitch in, sit with me in the kitchen and chat so we can be together,” she said. “The great thing about mealtime for us before we had kids was that we could stop, slow down, and connect.”
Elana’s food blog and cookbooks have no shortage of recipes you and your loved one can try on date night, but you might want to take it slow if you’re not a very seasoned cook.
“When spending time together in the kitchen, it can be good to start with some very easy recipes,” she said.
Elana told us a number of dishes offer ideal launching pads to boost culinary skills. One of her favorites is her Perfect Roast Chicken, which she said is incredibly easy to make and provides a wow factor that is sure to impress your dinner date.
“Add a side of my Roasted Cauliflower Carrots and Zucchini, and dinner is made!” she said.
If you have a hankering for something sweet after your meal, Elana provides plenty of surprisingly healthy options. She noted her Two-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream recipe is healthy, simple, and stunningly decadent.
Elana’s Pantry is packed with recipes to please any palate and any diet, and the site even delivers vegan and vegetarian dishes. Elana told us the future looks just as delicious, as she’s currently working on whipping up even more tasty, healthy low-carb recipes for her readers.