Healthy Living

Staten Island Chef Is Doing Big Things for Celiac Patients

This chef from Staten Island has created mouth-watering, gluten-free recipes to share with other celiac patients!

Staten Island Chef Is Doing Big Things for Celiac Patients

Photo: Staten Island Advance/Pamela Silvestri

There are so many limitations to a gluten-free diet, especially when going gluten-free is a matter of living a healthy or a not so healthy life. Anyone who can’t rely on traditional staples like bread, cereals, and pasta can feel at a loss when trying to figure out what to cook or how to cook it. Now, imagine a trained chef having to shift how and what they cook. This is exactly what happened to Sara Kabatsky when she was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2015. 

Thankfully, Sara had a strong support group behind her and learned how to cook delicious gluten-free meals with a little encouragement from her husband and friends. Sure, it took lots of experimentation and, like anyone learning a new skill, there were a lot of failures. Now, the future cookbook author is a gluten-free expert and wants to share her recipes with anyone who needs them.

Understanding Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a disorder that creates almost an autoimmune response when the body consumes gluten. Specifically, the body attacks the small intestine leading to cramping, nausea and other stomach issues.  Over time, the damage would be irreversible and can cause a whole slew of problems, including malabsorption of nutrients and the possibility of losing part of the intestine. Those who suffer from celiac disease often complain of headaches, fatigue and skin issues.  Untreated, celiac disease can cause some serious health issues, including extreme weight loss, heart issues, and even cancer.

Despite the many hours of research and clinical trials, there is currently no cure for celiac disease. Treatment options are very limited and patients have to learn to live with the disorder by making radical lifestyle changes. That means that the only way that someone with celiac disease can live a healthy life is to follow a gluten-free life. Since gluten can be found almost everywhere—from cleaning products to makeup, to food products—patients must be vigilant. It also means that meals have to be prepared using substitute ingredients, such as using rice flour.

Up until now, gluten food has had a reputation of being not so good. Some describe gluten-free food as tasting like "cardboard" or being very bland. Navigating health food stores to find specialized foods and food products can also be extremely overwhelming when someone doesn’t know exactly what they are looking for. This is where chefs like Sara come into the picture. Her passion for cooking has allowed her to create mouthwatering gluten-free recipes.

Sharing her delicious recipes with other celiac patients

Her blog, Gluten-Free Made Easy, is a one-stop shop for people who are looking for gluten-free recipes.  As a bonus, she also includes naturopathic information along with her recipes. She has also successfully experimented with some more traditional long-standing recipes from her family and has made them gluten-free. Her site makes it easy to access gluten-free snacks that are tastier, healthier and much cheaper than mass-produced commercial foods commonly found in stores.

Even though she has created a wonderful and useful tool for celiac patients, Sara knows that she could still do more. Throughout her own journey with celiac, she is inspired to help as many people as she can. She plans to become a certified health coach who works specifically with those with gluten sensitivities.  This will allow her to mentor others who face the same challenges that she has. 

One of the biggest disappointments for Sara after her diagnosis was not being able to enjoy the foods that she craved.  In her case, aside from being gluten-free, Sara is also a pescatarian, someone who includes fish in their vegetarian diet. Her recently formed partnership with Namaste Foods LLC, out of Washington State, will allow her to spread her specialties to more people.

And, if all that isn’t enough, Sara is working on a series of gluten-free recipes for cookbooks that she is hoping to release soon.  All of these projects are keeping her busy and well-fed with tasty gluten-free food, like this recipe for delicious vegan borsht. This is a perfect replacement to those creamy flour thickened soups and chowders that seem to appear on menus during the cool weather months.

Sara Kabatsky’s Vegan Borsht from Gluten-Free Made Easy

  • 4 to 5 medium beets, washed thoroughly and trimmed
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium green pepper, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cabbage, shredded
  • 4 to 5 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 6 to 7 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Splash of apple cider vinegar
  • 6 to 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 5 to 6 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Freshly minced dill and sour cream to serve (optional)


  1. Scrub and trim beets and place in a medium pot, cover with water and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt. Boil until tender.
  2. Remove beets from the pot to cool. Reserve the beet water.
  3. While the beets are boiling, sauté the onions and peppers with olive oil in a large stock pot until the onions are translucent.  Add the cabbage, carrots, and garlic. Sauté for 7 to 9 minutes or until the cabbage is beginning to soften.
  4. Strain the beet water into the sautéed vegetables. Shred the beets and add to the soup. Add in the vegetable stock and splash of vinegar and salt to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes, simmer until potatoes are tender. Serve with minced dill and/or sour cream

Sara’s story is a perfect example of how someone can do everything in their power to overcome their disease and still enjoy what they love. Sara’s main goal isn’t to cash in on her transformation, instead she wants to help others who are dealing with celiac disease.  Having a resource like Sara’s blog and a toolbox of recipes and tips can make a world of difference to someone who is changing their diet to save their life.