“Cooking is an adventure,” enthuses Candice Matthis. Her love for food and cooking began at a young age and was inspired by her Austrian Oma (grandmother). In fact, Matthis almost went to Johnson & Wales University’s culinary school after high school. She chose a different path, however, and graduated from college with a degree in public relations. While she doesn’t regret that track, as it led her to meet her husband, she has come full circle to realize her true passion is, indeed, cooking.
“As I got older and busy with college and life, cooking was not my top priority. The George Foreman dried-chicken days were abysmal. That was all I could do during college, burn a chicken breast, open a can of green beans and un-box mac ‘n cheese!” Soon, though, Matthis began to embrace healthful foods. “It wasn’t until I was 23 that I began my journey to eating more whole foods and started exploring cooking with more natural ingredients versus canned or packaged ones.”
After her third child, she was diagnosed with food allergies to wheat, barley and sesame. Matthis recalls coming home from the allergist’s office and crying because she could no longer cook her existing recipes. She regrouped and became proactive, looking up more suitable recipes on the Internet, even exhausting her ink supply printing recipes from blogs. The transition has gone slowly – over 10 years – going from white to brown grains then totally gluten-free. “It is truly a lifestyle change,” she says. It even led her to alter shampoo and make-up because so many beauty products contain wheat.
How has the family adjusted? Healthful eating creates a ripple effect, she contends. Her husband, Lee, is supportive and agreeable. Her children hardly know anything different. Matthis is not one to fix separate dinners, so they have learned to eat and like what she cooks. In fact, her eldest son has had some digestive issues so he gladly adheres to the regimen because it makes him feel better. Matthis admits that cooking whole foods and gluten-free is more expensive than traditional cooking. She spent a lot of money experimenting with different types of flours, for example, until hitting on ones that created tasty food. Shopping is not a problem. Between Kroger, Annie Kay’s and farmer’s markets, she finds what she needs. She and her husband also bought a whole cow from a local beef farmer.
Matthis is interested in turning her passion into a business “to give others a real food experience.” She has felt pulled to do this in the past couple of years, and things keep falling together to further her mission. It began with friends asking her advice, knowing about her healthy food odyssey. Her husband suggested she write a cookbook, but that seemed too overwhelming. So she started smaller by having 15 people take a survey, and she found that people are interested in her advice on recipes, meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, healthy choices when eating out and crock pot ideas.
Thus, The Blooming Kitchen was born. Her beloved Oma’s china features beautiful pink blossoms. The business plan is evolving and will most likely include “concierge” packages, a subscription service such as a blog and recipe feed and a la carte help as needed. Matthis wants to help people see that clean eating doesn’t have to be difficult.
Marketing is through word-of-mouth and social media. She laughs that she has become almost as interested in taking photos of her creations to post on Instagram as she is in cooking them. People have taken notice. She receives multiple comments on her pictures from followers, and even interest from a coffee shop in New York.
Matthis’ signature gluten-free recipe (which she keeps secret) is a cinnamon roll. She recalls her first forays into gluten-free treats being less than scrumptious, so she massaged her recipe over time and now has a hit on her hands. In fact, the Sweet Donkey coffee shop in Roanoke is looking at adding her cinnamon rolls to its menu.
Candice Matthis has big dreams. She is going to take an online course from Bauman College in California to be a nutritional consultant, and ultimately wants to study at the National Gourmet Institute, a nationally accredited culinary school in New York that focuses on whole foods. This would require relocation for six to 12 months, so that is a long-term goal for when her young children are grown. Cooking should be fun, Matthis believes – not just about the final product, but about the whole sensory experience: “I love putting on good music, pouring a glass of wine and getting lost in creativity!”
By Jennifer Poff Cooper
Photos by Always and Forever Photography
Candice’s Tips for Gluten Free Cooking and Baking
~ My two favorite all-purpose flour blends that can be substituted 1-for-1 in most recipes:
~ King Arthur Gluten Free All-purpose flour
~ Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Flour blend
* Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix is also a wonderful product to have on hand.
~~~ If you are baking breads, try to use a flour blend that contains sorghum flour as the first ingredient, instead of white rice flour. White rice flour tends to make bread gummy in texture. Krusteaz brand makes a great gluten-free flour blend that is sorghum based, and I highly recommend for baking gluten free breads.
~~~ Coconut and almond flours are useful in a multitude of recipes. They are full of fiber and protein and are more nutrient dense than all-purpose flour.
~~~ Be sure to check all labels, even those of meats, especially sausages or meats that have been pre-marinated or seasoned. Wheat is used as a filler and binding agent and can be a sneaky, hidden ingredient. I shop mainly on the perimeter of the grocery store to avoid processed foods that may contain hidden ingredients. All fruits, vegetables and certain grains like rice are naturally gluten free. I also buy only organic and unseasoned meat.
~~~ Wonderful blogs for getting started with gluten free recipes:
• The Blooming Kitchen blog will
be up soon!
Jennifer Poff Cooper is a Christiansburg-based freelance writer and regular contributor to New River Valley Magazine and NRV Social Scene Magazine.