Lisa Howard first considered going gluten-free about five years ago.

The 37-year-old food writer and recipe developer from Berkley, Mich., began dabbling with gluten-free baking because of the culinary challenges it presented.

“Gluten-free baking was a whole new … interesting field of sort … to get involved in and experiment with,” she said.

At the same time, Howard says, she began to experience gastro problems and stomach pain. Opting for a holistic approach, she put herself on an elimination diet to see whether food was the culprit. After forgoing and then reintroducing a series of common food allergens, Howard discovered gluten was affecting her health.

“It was a weird coincidence that after I started getting interested (in gluten-free) as a casual observer, it then became kind of a necessity,” she says.

Back then there were far fewer gluten-free products as there are now and the ones Howard said she could find didn’t meet her standards.

“When I started getting into commercially made GF (gluten-free baked goods) products I was horrified with what was on store shelves,” she said. “They don’t have much flavor for one and, at the same time, you just eat a bunch of starches.”

So Howard set out to develop her own recipes using a whole foods approach. The result is a new cookbook due out Friday.

“Healthier Gluten-Free: All-Natural Whole-Grain Recipes Made with Healthy Ingredients and Zero Fillers” (Fair Winds Press, $24.99) is filled with recipes for gluten-free versions of favorites like baked goods and pizza. Nearly all recipes come with a recipe note about a specific ingredient or a tip or a technique.

We caught up with Howard (who also shares recipes and more at theculturedcook.com) recently to talk about her upcoming book. Here are highlights of what she had to say:

Q: What is it that you hope people take away from this cookbook?

A: I hope that everyone – gluten-free and not gluten-free – can use this book to have a better understanding of quality ingredients and how they can improve their health. And there is this fun thing about it. It’s a fun way to get involved with new things so they are not so scary. Maybe you haven’t had quinoa or brown rice pasta before. … I see it (the book) as being the bridge between the chef and dietitian. It’s not overwhelming and it comes down to common sense. I like to present my material that is engaging and at times serious. That is why I provided the pages of health information up front about celiac disease and specific ingredient information.

Q: Baked goods (breads, doughs, cakes, cookies) typically have flour. How easy was it to come up with those recipes sans gluten?

A: The hardest thing is baking, because cooking is pretty laissez-faire and is more eyeballing it. Baking depends more on chemical reaction – it’s more of a science. So you X out the French crazy stuff, the baguettes, the croissants. Rather than beat my head against the wall, I said I am going to focus on all the stuff that works great: muffins, flatbread, pancakes, crepes, cookies and waffles. The only thing I don’t have in my book is sandwich bread. I know people do want that, but at the same time I am hoping to encourage everyone, not just gluten-free people, to think beyond that single slice of bread.

Q: Is it expensive to eat gluten-free or use the gluten-free flours?

A: It’s easier, I think, to do it yourself. You can make your own nut flours. You can buy sliced almonds in bulk and grind them yourself. It’s a lot fresher, more nutritious, it works better, tastes better, is better for you, and it’s half the price.

Q: Is there anything you really miss since you gave up gluten?

A: One thing I do miss is really good beer, a German Hefeweizen. I lived in Germany and I love German wheat beer.

Q: Were some of the recipes harder to make gluten-free than others?

A: There is a lot of technique involved in baked goods. So the multigrain crackers were tricky. The key for crackers is you want to evenly roll it out. And for pie crust I found rolling the crust between two sheets of plastic wrap worked best.

Collard-Wrapped Tuna and Hummus Rolls

Serves: 4 (2 wraps each) Preparation time: 30 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Hummus:

2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced

15 ounces canned chickpeas, drained

Juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon tahini

1 teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

Rolls:

8 large collard leaves

10 ounces canned tuna, drained

8 small radishes, trimmed, sliced thinly

4 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks

1 small cucumber, cut into matchsticks

To make the hummus: In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over low heat for 1 minute. Add garlic and saute for 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant and turning light brown. Remove from heat and place garlic and oil in a food processor. Add chickpeas, lemon, tahini, cumin and salt. Blend until smooth, adding a little more oil or some water if the hummus is still chunky. Blend again. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

To make the rolls: Trim away any ragged edges from the collard leaves. Cut off the bottom 3 inches of the tough rib. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the leaves. Cook uncovered for 3 minutes, use tongs to promptly remove and let drain.

Spread a leaf out on a plate or cutting board and place a spoonful of tuna in the lower third of the leaf. Add radish slices, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, and a hearty dab of hummus. Fold bottom of leaf up onto the filling. Fold in each edge of the leaf and then roll up, turning it over and tucking in the sides until the leaf is a neat package. Place seam-side down. Repeat with remaining leaves.

ALMOND SPONGE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE FROSTING

1 cake (about 9 pieces)

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 hour (plus cooling time)

Cake:

2 yolks

5 eggs

½ cup powdered sucanat (see note)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup almond flour

⅓ cup sorghum flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Frosting:

3.5 ounces dark chocolate (75 percent to 85 percent cacao)

½ cup heavy cream, chilled

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and thoroughly grease an 8-by-8-inch glass pan.

To make the cake: Place yolks, eggs, sucanat and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Whip on high for 4 full minutes with a hand mixer or a standing mixer. Quickly whip in the flours, baking powder and melted butter. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and warm. Let cake cool before frosting.

To make the frosting: Place a large mixing bowl and the beaters in the freezer. Break up the chocolate and place in a small saucepan over the lowest heat setting. Melt slowly, stirring often. Remove from heat when the chocolate still has a few bumps and continue stirring to finish melting the chocolate. Set aside.

Pour cream into the chilled bowl and whip with the chilled beaters until you have fluffy but still smooth cream. Whip in the melted chocolate.

Frost the cooled cake and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set the frosting. Leftover cake can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Cook’s note: Make powdered sucanat by running granular sucanat through a coffee/spice grinder until powdery. When you refrigerate the cake for more than a few hours, the ganache frosting will harden, so it’s best to let any leftover slices sit out at room temperature for an hour to soften before serving.

MOROCCAN ALMOND AND LAMB MEATBALLS

Makes: About 50

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

1 pound ground lamb or ½ pound ground beef plus ½ pound ground lamb

About 1 tablespoon minced red onion

2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced

Grated zest of 1 orange

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons coriander

1 tablespoon dried mint

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 egg

½ cup almond flour

Mix lamb with onion, garlic, orange, cumin, coriander, mint, salt and egg. Add enough almond flour to make a mixture that is dry enough to easily roll into 1-inch balls. If you overshoot on the dryness, add another egg and gradually add in more ground almonds until you hit the right consistency.

Saute balls over medium heat for 4 minutes or until all “sides” are nicely browned, shaking the pan often to make sure the meatballs cook evenly. (When you think they’re done, remove one and cut it in half to see whether it’s cooked through.) If the meatballs stick to the pan while cooking, add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and carefully move them around to release them.

Serve on a large plate with a toothpick stuck into each meatball to make it easier for guests to serve themselves.

Cook’s note: Mint is also a main ingredient in Greek tzatziki, a yogurt-based condiment flavored with mint, garlic, cucumbers, and often lemon juice. A dollop of plain whole-milk Greek yogurt would be a nice accompaniment to these meatballs, or make a quick version of tzatziki by combining yogurt with minced seedless cucumber, a clove of minced garlic, some chopped fresh mint, and a squeeze of lemon juice.tion information not available.