Pass Health Foods, 7228 W. College Dr., Palos Heights, hosted a Gluten Free Baking Contest on November 12.  (Photos by Kelly White)

Pass Health Foods, 7228 W. College Dr., Palos Heights, hosted a Gluten Free Baking Contest on November 12. (Photos by Kelly White)

Biscotti recipe wins Pass Health Food’s Gluten Free Baking Contest 

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Judges of the Pass Health Foods Gluten Free Baking Contest, Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz and River Johnson, show off the winning selections.

By Kelly White 

With all of the food allergies and sensitivities today, a local health food store is here to help. 

Pass Health Foods, 7228 W. College Dr., Palos Heights, hosted a Gluten Free Baking Contest on Saturday, November 12.  

“There is a popular demand for gluten free foods due to allergies, Celiac, which is a medical condition where people can’t eat wheat or gluten, as well as wheat sensitivities,” Carolyn Johnson, co-owner of Pass Health Foods, said. “There is a large demand for gluten free foods, so the contest helps to show the different ways and recipes that can be made with gluten free foods by people in the community.” 

Johnson co-owns the establishment along with her aunts, Joanne Callahan and Theresa Van Loon, who started the store in 1995. The other main owner is Liz Ryan. Joanne and Theresa are still involved with the store, but have partially retired. 

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Pass Health Foods co-owner, Carolyn Johnson, at the store’s Gluten Free Baking Contest on November 12.

This January will mark its 28th year. 

To participate in the Gluten Free Baking Contest, entries had to be on disposable plates or platters and could be dropped off at Pass Health Foods on the morning of the contest. Judging for the friendly competition took place at noon.  

All entries had to be accompanied by full recipes and were required to be entirely free of gluten.  All entries were available to sample after the judging, making it a wonderful and delicious time for everyone who came out. 

The store has held Gluten Free Baking Contests in the past but everything has been on hold with the COVID-19 pandemic for the past couple of years, Johnson said. 

“We have a lot of gluten free customers and customers with food allergies, and baking without gluten can be a challenge, since gluten, which is the main protein found in wheat, helps hold baked goods together and to rise giving it a light and fluffy texture,” Johnson said. “Gluten free baking is much more difficult to make a good end product, so the contest celebrates that.” 

Entries were primarily judged on taste, looks counted as well, but since baking without gluten can be difficult, taste was the main factor, Johnson said. 

The winning recipe is printed on this page and Gloria Patitucci, of Worth, was the first-place winner. She will receive a $50 gift card. There was also an honorable mention prize and ‘Kid’s Choice’ award of a $25 gift card each, along with special gift baskets and extra prizes for the winners. 

Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz, who has been a popular judge in the past, was kind enough to do it again this year.  

“Pass Heath Foods is a longtime business that is built on giving outstanding customer service,” Straz said. “It is a great example on how small businesses can prosper and grow.” 

Johnson’s daughter, River Johnson, 12, served as the ‘Kid’s Award’ Judge. There were also will have three staff pick winners that the staff at Pass Heath Foods chose. 

“We like hosting events for the community, and this one is particularly great since it highlights foods that can be made without wheat and gluten for all of the many people who come into our store who can’t eat gluten or wheat,” Johnson said. regional baking contest8 2022

Pass Health Foods did not ask people to pre-register this year, but had a great turnout for the event. There were no particular categories, although everything presented consisted of a different type of baked item that was entirely gluten free.  Just like in the past, the contest featured plenty of cakes, breads, muffins, and pies. 

“I really like seeing how excited people are about entering, I know one of our customers have said that their granddaughter likes to make gluten free cupcakes and was hoping to enter, so we’re just hoping for a fun event where people can showcase their baking skills,” Johnson said. 

Winners were 1st place: Gloria Patitucci, of Worth, who baked Gluten Free Sea Salted Caramel Biscotti; 2nd place, Anne-Marie Niziolek, of Orland Park, who baked Gluten-Free Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake; and ‘Kid’s Award’ Winner, Morgan Cutrone who baked Gluten Free Pumpkin Squares. 

“I’ve been changing a lot of my recipes to gluten-free for some special friends,” Patitucci said. “I’ve been perfecting my biscotti recipe for a long time and I also make plenty of other flavors.”

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