Our Gluten Free journey.
Like you, just having a decent sandwich was nearly impossible when we first found out we were gluten/wheat intolerant.
My husband Breck, was the first in our family to find out he was celiac and as a result, could not eat foods containing gluten. Then I found out I was gluten intolerant! We never thought we would one day be in the food business.
Astoria Mills mixes started out with me just writing down my recipes for my sons thinking, one day they may want them. I never thought I was doing something that much different until people who tasted started asking me to bake them my breads etc. ...at any price!
Because taste is such a factor, rather than just taste testing on others on a gluten free diet already, I tested on wheat eaters.
After all, competing with big business is a big deal. It is expensive to get started, would anyone buy our mixes? I was told by a few people not to worry about the taste, "after all, people on a gluten free diet will eat anything." Well, I won't, and I'm not serving anything I won't eat myself or feed my family. I frankly was shocked trying some breads with such an awful aftertaste, you won't find that with Astoria Mills blends.
Most people have a pre-determined viewpoint about what something gluten free will taste like. Just the mention of it and regular wheat eaters noses give that tell tale sign. I always say, you can get someone to taste one bite out of politeness, but they won't finish eating it unless it tastes good. So when everyone not only tasted but finished the whole piece of whatever, not leaving a crumb. I know I've got something! Now to be honest, gluten free is not exactly the same as with gluten, in some cases. You know what I mean. But you should be able to eat it and enjoy! I remember one occasion we tried some gluten free brownies at a party and had to quickly excuse ourselves so we could go spit them out. So at Astoria Mills, we consider taste our number 1 priority and equally important is nutrition and how a mix performs.
My family has been spoiled over the years, and I now hope to spoil you with Astoria Mills complete system of gluten free mixes. I grew up experiencing some of the best Southern cooking around. My grandmother routinely made melt-in-your-mouth Oklahoma style biscuits every morning for the eight children back on the farm before heading out to teach school. As a youngster she taught me the nuances of creating those biscuits, which all true Southerners know, come with table manners. “You don’t want to be seen cutting a biscuit with a knife, they need to be made so they will hold together yet pull apart in the middle.” Not to mention taste great! Grandmother taught me the secrets of making an All-American apple pie.
Only a southerner will know what I mean by that old staple, gravy on biscuits. Grandmother taught me to make delicious okra and corn as well as beans sautéed in bacon and onions, with corn bread, sweet potato pie, and even Texas chocolate pie! While emphasizing the roots of Irish and Scottish ancestral foods. I was also exposed through the other side of the family and their hotelier experiences to great European Cuisine, the French, German and Italian cooking schools that take their cues from Old World Master Chefs. Needless to say, I grew up with a discerning pallet, and what for some would be food to rave about in a restaurant, was to me, “home cooking.” I was determined my family would be raised with an appreciation and enjoyment of good foods, not a life of gluten free deprivation!
So it was there that I started my culinary conversion to a gluten free kitchen, determined to overcome its obstacles.
I am still on the journey, still inventing, still sharing, still bringing my love to the table every day. This gluten free journey has led to writing several cookbooks on the subject from a step-by-step guide for starting a gluten free diet and “Three Stages of Healing” to a gluten free mini-encyclopedia with over 250 foods you can eat each with an explanation of gluten free ingredients and a little information about nutritional components. See, Astoria Mills ‘Health and Nutrition’ This book alone took over a year of research and writing. I found that people want easy mixes and nutrition, that you can only include with commercial blends, so this book has many recipes using Astoria Mills mixes as well as other general information about foods we can eat.
Over the years our family has had kaiser buns, hamburger buns, bread for sandwiches, fantastic pizzas, birthday cakes, pies, and many other wonderful desserts. During ‘kid’s reward days’ at school, we've supplied the whole class with our gluten free pizzas, and the children never noticed the difference! Now our gluten free journey has led our family to the creation of Astoria Mills so we can share good foods with you too. Astoria Mills has also addressed the need for healthy eating, which is important for celiacs and all those who are gluten intolerant or follow a gluten free diet. Astoria Mills mixes include our own specially developed for us enrichment fortification formula. This was created especially to augment gluten free dietary needs. Now, even eating a piece of pie will not be empty calories! Astoria Mills answers the need to have a complete system of gluten free mixes with which you can make almost anything. No more guess work, or throwing out foods that taste horrible or just didn't perform up to expectations. People are busy, they don’t have time to make failures, they just want to keep things simple, eat well on a gluten free diet, and enjoy life.
A little Astoria Mills History
Whenever you go out to eat, as a person who has a gluten free diet, invariably the subject comes up. We kept meeting more people who needed to eat gluten free for health reasons. I started learning how to feed my family a gluten free diet, experimenting with recipes, there were a lot of failures along the way. I remember my first gluten free birthday cake. It was horrible! Eventually I was able to translate many of my family recipes into gluten free versions. I found that if I had my 3 basic flour mixes in my cupboard that I had mixed and played with over the 20 years to suit my own baking, I could then make just about any recipe. It all grew out of necessity. I was a busy working mom and developed a system of cooking and baking that would save me time. I would make huge tubs of mixtures and bread for a month. I'll never forget my sons telling me, "Mom, you should open a gluten free bake shop!" Then one year we decided to go camping. I would not have my regular things on hand so I decided to try putting everything for my breads into dry form so all I had to do was add water. The first bread mix was born. My husband trekked around with me as I embarked on a course of taste testing the recipes at events, a little here a little there just to see if what we had to offer was really that much better than what people on a gluten free diet were able to get normally. After all, going out into the world and selling a product, you have to know if anyone will like it. We went to celiac meetings, and people loved my breads and other baked goods. I just loved it when people would ask , "Could I have another piece of your bread? I haven't had any good bread in years!" I can't tell you all the people who asked me to make them my bread and I had to say no, I don't have a commercial kitchen. Then we went to several events where there were mostly wheat eaters and just a few celiac as a favor to a nutritionist friend of mine. I thought, everyone knows someone who can' t eat wheat, but I was really surprised when wheat eaters started commenting on how good my artisan breads were, saying things like they reminded them of their grandmother's home baked bread or such.
Finally we started down the road of seeing if it would be possible to have our recipes commercially blended, just too good to keep to ourselves. One of the things I had always wished for was to be able to give people a more nutritious product. I vowed I would only make and sell what we would eat ourselves and not cut corners, yet try and give reasonable prices. We had a fortification formula made for Astoria Mills mixes to include what a recent study of celiacs said were missing nutrient on average. Even wheat breads are fortified, so I thought we need nothing less. I was always researching ingredients to make the mixes healthier. I even wrote an encyclopedia from my research and included it in one of my cookbooks called Gluten Free Health and Nutrition. In 2009 we launched Astoria Mills selling our first mixes in a trial market. We received orders from all over North America, much more than we had even hoped for. Repeat orders started coming in and then our manufacturer could not keep up. We had to find another dedicated manufacturer who could supply any amount required. So in preparation for the new launch, new formulas with even more nutrition were tested and made.
The inclusion of Hi-maize®260 Resistant Starch to all but one mix and sprouted flax and chia to two, plus the finalization of two new mixes adding another dimension to Astoria Mills baking mixes.
The little family endeavor that is now Astoria Mills The word spread quickly online, and Trina was soon being asked by various health professionals - such as Dr. Stephanie Jennings and Jane Snyder of New Vision Nutrition - to appear at their seminars. We gave taste tests, baking demonstrations, and lectures for various organizations - such as the Canadian Celiac Association, and at the Whitby Seniors Center. We gave radio interviews with various interested people - such as Rose-Anne Kumpunen of Real Life Changes.
There were a few TV appearances with Kasia Bodurka on Rogers TV and Garth Riley of First Take Live at CHEX Channel 1 as well as the Small Business Big Ideas Show on Sunday morning radio. 'Better Being' Cookbook author, Ann Barnes interviewed Trina and loved her gluten free breads. We did blind taste tests with our pizzas, and got rave reviews. Pizza Pino's in Ajax was kind enough to use our dough to make them in a commercial oven. Awesome!
So the story continues as we go to the next phase of Astoria Mills. We would like to thank everyone who has helped and encouraged along the way to make this venture a possibility and bring a new standard in gluten free to market.
Wishing you wellness, joy and great gluten free foods! - Trina