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The Short Version: gfJules is a blog written by Jules Shepard, the “The Gluten-Free Person of the Decade” and a highly regarded member of the food allergy community for the last decade. gfJules offers recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, as well as general gluten-free baking and cooking tips. Jules has her own line of gluten-free products, from flours to baking mixes, that make great gifts for a gluten-free special someone. Daters with dietary restrictions can find plenty of at-home date night dinner ideas, all in one place, on gfJules.
All of us have first-date topics. For many daters, these are lifestyle non-negotiables their partner must be down for. Think along the lines of having pets, working non-traditional hours, or pursuing time-consuming hobbies. They aren’t heavy topics, but they are still important indicators of lifestyle and general compatibility.
For me, one of those first-date topics is that I’m a vegan. Nine times out of 10, my date then asks me why, and we take a brief foray into basic animal rights theory before interest dwindles, and they ask me if that means I still eat fish. While dietary restrictions may not come to mind immediately for many daters, people with dietary restrictions are definitely considering them while selecting a partner.
From choosing a first-date restaurant to educating a partner on what foods are safe, and not, dating with dietary restrictions comes with a specific set of considerations. Jules Shepard, founder and blogger of the website gfJules, has been gluten-free since a 1999 Celiac disease diagnosis. She shared with us how daters can benefit from her recipes and line of gluten-free flours and mixes.
gfJules is an online trove of gluten-free recipes, from breakfast to dessert. All recipes are simple to make dairy free and are often plant-forward. Jules developed a line of gluten-free flours and mixes, formulating all of their recipes and honing their ingredients until they were delicious and, more importantly, not gritty.
Food brings people together, and Jules told us she believes that dietary restrictions should never hinder this connection. “I’ve always been very passionate about food and baking and bringing people together,” Jules said. “When my dietary restriction made that feel impossible, I had to figure out a way to make that happen again.”
Before Jules was a champion for the food allergy community, she was a North Carolina girl who loved to cook and bake. She said she enjoyed cooking for her family and friends and always preferred to stay in for something home-cooked rather than go to a restaurant. When she was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 1999, she felt a sense of loss with her new dietary restrictions.
Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten that causes inflammation in the small intestine. Over time, the disease damages the small intestine, leading to many health complications and concerns. The best way to mitigate Celiac and prevent further intestinal damage is by following a gluten-free diet.
A gluten-free diet excludes everything that contains the protein called gluten. This means wheat, barley, and rye, which are ingredients found in bread, pasta, baked goods, cereal, crackers, soup, beer – the list goes on. While a gluten-free diet may sound restrictive, with proper care and planning, those who keep gluten-free diets can enjoy versions of nearly every food they love.
Jules said shortly after her diagnosis she experienced what she referred to as a food depression. She missed all of the old foods she used to enjoy and began to lose her joy for cooking or eating. Jules decided enough was enough and got back into cooking, figuring it out as she went along. At the time, there were far fewer resources for gluten-free cooking and even fewer dining-out options. As Jules continued to cook and bake, she grew frustrated with one specific aspect of gluten-free food — the flour.
Many of her gluten-free kitchen escapades came out best when she used a combination of several gluten-free flours. She said she did not like brown rice flour, which she felt gave all of her food that infamous gluten-free grit. Jules formulated a gluten-free flour mix that she liked but still found it troublesome to have to mix it herself, compared to non-gluten-free cooking, which requires no flour combinations.
Jules began sharing her flour mix and making it in large batches. She had previously worked as a prosecutor, but knew her passion lay in baking and creating accessible, high-quality gluten-free products. “I really should have never gone to law school,” Jules laughed. “When I was there, all signs were pointing to ‘You should be a baker!’ I would go home from the library at two am and just bake and bake and bake.”
As gluten-free diets became more mainstream and the rapid growth of the Internet connected people across the world, Jules found her way as a gluten-free blogger and advocate of sorts. Jules doesn’t eat dairy and is a pescatarian, meaning many of her recipes are vegan-friendly or can be easily adapted. She shared her years of stockpiling gluten-free recipes and began manufacturing her flour on a larger level.
Jules told us about a few recipes she felt would be great for date night. They all include making dough, which is especially fun to do with a partner. Most people aren’t frequently making dough, so it’s a unique but approachable two-person activity.
Gluten-free wonton wrapper is one of the recipes Jules suggested. The recipe is simple, and the wonton wrappers can be filled with anything the cook wishes. Couples start by whisking an egg with water then add gfJules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour. The dough is then rolled out and cut into five-inch squares. Couples can then stuff the wrappers with whatever their hearts desire, whether vegetables or meat.
Pasta-loving couples will find the homemade gluten-free tortellini to be simple and delicious. The recipe calls for dough made from gfJules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, and couples can stuff the tortellini with pesto, hummus, olive tapenade, cheese, or roasted veggies. The tortellini are then boiled and come out tender and tasty.
A lot of gluten-free folks will agree that there’s one food item they miss a lot. Pizza! The thick, soft, pull-apart dough can be difficult to achieve with gluten-free cooking, but Jules has achieved the impossible with her calzone recipe. Considered pizza’s brother, this gluten-free calzone recipe includes a simple dough made from gfJules Pizza Crust Mix. This mix makes a pizza dough perfect for calzones, no matter what they’re filled with.
For dessert, couples can make the gluten-free chocolate chip skillet cookie, which is a big, gooey cookie cake. The recipe calls for applesauce instead of eggs and vegan butter, making it entirely vegan-friendly. gfJules Gluten Free Cookie Mix makes this recipe easy, as all at-home bakers have to do is combine the flour mix, applesauce, salt, chocolate chips, and butter and stick it in the oven.
Dating with dietary restrictions can have its challenges. But with the right partner, navigating those challenges can be a learning experience that is shared together. Finding new recipes, trying different flour mixes, and experimenting with substitutes can be fun activities for couples who eat gluten-free. Cooking is connective, and taking time and intention to make it accessible and fun with a partner is meaningful.
A big part of Jules’ gluten-free journey was making her own flours. She wanted to make a flour that wasn’t gritty but also wasn’t a hassle to put together. When gluten-free products started to become increasingly mainstream, Jules said she was disappointed with the quality. Many of the manufacturers wanted to make gluten-free flour as cheaply and quickly as possible, with little consideration for how it actually cooked or baked.
This meant many of these manufacturers worked with gritty brown rice flour with a specific taste and feel. On the other hand, Jules made a five-flour blend that did not include brown rice flour or other funny tasting but inexpensive gluten-free ingredients. This blend is pricier but worth the results. But Jules said she knew her quality and taste were better than these cheaply produced products.
This is why she opened her online marketplace, where gluten-free folks can buy flours and mixes and have them delivered right to their front door. gfJules All Purpose Gluten Free Flour has been voted #1 certified gluten-free flour six times by gluten-free consumers, and is certified gluten-free, kosher, and free from the Big 9 Food Allergens.
Jules also offers specialized flour mixes designed for specific dishes. gfJules Gluten Free Bread Mix is ideal for making gluten-free bread, and the gfJules Gluten Free Pancake and Waffle Mix makes mornings easier (and tastier) than ever. The Gluten Free Graham Cracker/Gingerbread Mix is good for any season and perfect for smores and gingerbread houses alike. For those with more than one food restriction, Jules recently created a new flour that is entirely grain-free, paleo and allergen-free, called Nada Flour.
A large community of gluten-free folks love to bake, as many stores have slim pickings for pre-made gluten-free baked goods. gfJules has two gluten-free baking gift bundles, the Pizza Lover’s Kit and the Starter Pack. These bundles make great gifts and include everything a gluten-free baker or cook would need to get started.
Dietary restrictions don’t need to be a relationship hurdle. With communication, curiosity, and understanding, daters can learn about each other by navigating different diets. “My ex-husband was so resistant to my diet, and it was a sticking point in our relationship,” Jules told us. “Dietary restrictions can be like a litmus test for daters. Like can you handle this, or can you not?”