Photo: Tina Larkin
Matt Thomas, an architect who has been in Taos for over 9 years now, said that being diagnosed with celiac disease (intolerance to gluten) was the best thing that ever happened to him.
“I had been feeling tired and had no energy at all for over ten years,” he said, “and suddenly, I discovered why.”
Not only did he find out the cause of his low energy level, but he discovered a new calling as well.
Thomas changed his diet, eliminating all gluten-containing products from it. But gluten is widely used in baked goods and he missed them. He started baking gluten free cookies and cakes, at first simply to satisfy his craving. They turned out to be so yummy that soon his friends suggested that Thomas try baking as a business.
He listened to them.
“I used to do a lot of design work while baking on the side,” he said. “Now I am doing more baking than designing!”
He also sees his new business as an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.
“I am excited about the possibility of helping those who think they have to give up baked goods because of their medical condition,” he said. “The fact that you are allergic to gluten doesn’t mean you have to forget the sweet treats of life.”
Thomas grew up in a shoe store. He credits his upbringing in the family business with understanding how to provide good customer service. “Besides, it is easier to sell people a piece of cake than a whole house!” he said.
Thomas taught architecture inNew York City and Lebanon for two years. He came toTaosbecause he was interested in sustainability and green building and wanted to work with adobe and straw bale.
“I renovated my house with my own hands,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience, but now I see myself going into a different direction – while still working with my hands.”
This new route includes distributing his gluten free baked goods to local cafes and grocery stores, as well as starting a “breadbox” service for baked goods. “You can sign up for it and receive weekly, bi-weekly or monthly a box with bread, cupcakes, cookies and other goodies,” he said. Everything will be gluten-free.
“I find myself enjoying more and more the process of providing sweet treats to those who thought they couldn’t have them,” Thomas said. “I was offering chocolate cupcakes a few days ago and some people came to look at them, but told me they couldn’t eat them because of their intolerance to gluten. When I explained that all my goodies were gluten-free, they were ecstatic!”
And of course they devoured them.
Thomas prepares his products at the Taos Food Center, which is part of Taos County Economic Development Corporation (TCEDC).
“I am very, very grateful to TCEDC,” he said. “They have been extremely supportive since the first day I came here.”
“TheTaosFoodCenteris a 5,000 square foot commercial kitchen,” said Elena Arguello, TCEDC’s Food Center Manager. “We offer people all the equipment, services and support that they need to get their food business started.”
More than 40 local food businesses work out of the Taos Food Center, Arguello said. They prepare everything from New Mexican salsas to Arabian food. The Center has dry storage, a large walk-in cooler, walk-in freezer space and convection ovens, fryers, steam kettles, a vacuum sealer, and a semi-automatic canning line.
To prepare himself for his new business, Thomas took a one-week course offered by TCEDC. It teaches participants the basics of food safety, packaging, labeling, and government food regulations.
“We also focus on foods product development and marketing,” said Arguello. “We explained to people all they need to know about manufacturing standards, record keeping, labeling, etc.”
And this is a free program.
“The kitchen is open 24 hours, 7 days a week,” said Arguello. “People can come here, develop their product and sell it. Some do it while having a regular job. Others do it full time.”
The Center distributes its products twice a week in Cid’s, La Montañita inAlbuquerqueandSanta Fe, Whole Foods, and many other venues.
The philosophy of the program is “There is ‘no, we can’t.’ There is ‘how can we?’”
Arguello welcomed Thomas as she had other participants before—with open arms and a sincere desire to help them get their business off the ground.
“Getting a product that is gluten-free will make lots of people happier and healthier,” she said. “We are very happy to have Matt here.”
To contact Matt Thomas call (575) 613-0601
TCEDC is located at1021 Salazar Rd.
Taos, NM 87571
Phone: (575) 758-8731
Gluten Free Pistachio Cranberry Christmas Cookies
1 ½ cup gluten free flour blend*
2/3 cup tapioca flour
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ sticks butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon orange zest
½ cup pistachios (unshelled)
1/3 cup cranberries
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup turbinado raw sugar
Whisk together in a medium sized bowl the flours, xanthan gum, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Beat the butter with the sugar, orange zest in a mixer on medium speed. Add one egg. Mix in the flour at low speed until the dough has come together. Add the cranberries and pistachios. Divide the dough mixture into two and form into 1 1/2” logs on plastic wrap, chill for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove chilled cookie mixture from plastic and brush with egg wash – generously coat with turbinado sugar, pressing gently.
Cut eat bar crosswise into ¼” thick slices. Arrange cookies on sheet 1 ½ inches apart on baking sheet. Bake cookies 13-15 minutes until edges are golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
*You can create your own blend of gluten free flour (a nut or bean flour with a starch) or use a packaged mix, such as Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour.
A good mixer is often key for the best results of all gluten-free baking. There are often Sears promotional codes available for quality mixers.
Gluten Free Beet & Carrot Cake
7 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
7 tablespoons apple sauce
2 beets (4 ounces), raw, peeled and grated
2 carrots (4 ounces), raw, peeled and grated
1 ¼ cup mixed chopped nuts, toasted
3 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
juice and zest of one orange
1 ¼ cup rice flour
3 tablespoons almond flour
Cream cheese frosting:
1 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line an 8-inch round, deep cake pan with parchment paper and grease the sides. In a bowl, stir the melted butter and sugar together until well mixed. Add the shredded beets and carrots, applesauce, half of the nuts and the egg yolks. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together the baking powder, cinnamon, orange zest, rice flour and ground almonds. Add to the beet and carrot mixture with the orange juice, beat until smooth.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs whites until they form soft peaks. Fold gently into the beet and carrot mixture.
Carefully pour the mixture into the cake pan and place in a preheated oven for 45 – 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
In a mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese and sugar. Smooth the frosting over the cooled cake and sprinkle with remaining whole nuts.
Gluten Free Green Chile & Cheddar Cornbread Stuffing
2 large eggs
¾ cup milk
¼ cup canola oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup polenta
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup potato starch
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ cup cheddar, grated
½ cup roasted green chile, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup parsley, chopped
½ cup chicken stock
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8” square baking dish with parchment paper and butter the sides.
Beat the eggs with a mixer until frothy. Mix in the milk, oil and cider vinegar.
In a separate bowl, whisk the sorghum flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt together. Blend into the egg mixture. Spread into baking dish.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the edges are browned. Let cool.
Cube the bread into ½ inch cubes. Allow to dry out (you can also place it in the oven at a low temperature for 2 hours). Place into a large bowl.
In a pan, heat butter on medium heat. Add the onion, celery and salt and sauté 5 minutes. Mix with the dried cornbread cubes. Add the parsley and chicken stock. Toss until fully coated. Stuff turkey or chicken as desired and roast bird as directed.