By MATTHEW MEYER | Reporter
As a vegetarian nearly all her life, Courtney Gebhart has developed her share of creative “cook-arounds.”
But the Palisadian mother of two faced her greatest culinary challenge when her daughter, Sadie, was diagnosed as highly sensitive to gluten in the third grade.
“How am I going to feed her?” Gebhart remembered asking. “I was at the co-op in Santa Monica saying, ‘There’s one cracker I can buy.’”
But over the years, she has developed an arsenal of creative, gluten-free choices for family dinner.
A former NCAA tennis player and an avid yogi, Gebhart was already used to cooking with vegetables, avoiding unnecessary, “empty” carbohydrates and ensuring that her diet had plenty of protein.
Raising two active kids (we’ve featured her son, Jake, a competitive surfer, in the paper), she found ways to infuse a gluten-free diet with the same nutritious qualities.
But challenges remained.
“Pizza parties were hard,” Gebhart mused.
And her initial attempts at creating an alternative to everyone’s favorite, gluten-filled flatbread were less than inspiring. Homemade, gluten-free dough was either too “cracker-y” or borderline soggy, and the kids were unimpressed.
But finally she found a winning formula.
Gebhart combined puréed cauliflower and whey protein powder, adding small amounts of egg, mozzarella and brown rice to help bind it together.
“It made this perfect crust,” she told the Palisadian-Post.
It earned the kids’ stamp of approval for taste, and Gebhart was thrilled with the pizza’s high-protein, low-carb calorie count.
Cauliflower pizza became her go-to option for sharing a gluten-free meal with friends, and after receiving overwhelming encouragement from her Palisadian taste-testers, Gebhart recently decided to take the product commercial.
She partnered with a manufacturer in LA that can produce her recipe en-masse and designed packaging for the pizzas under a new brand, Courtney’s Smart Carbs.
Gebhart is still learning the ropes of entrepreneurship, but she scored a significant victory when she impressed at a Costco kitchen taste-test, earning a run of samples and sales at 12 of their stores throughout September.
The pizzas are selling extremely well, and Gebhart has relished the opportunity to hear honest opinions from shoppers at the sample stand.
If you eat Chicago deep-dish pizza every day, cauliflower pizza is unlikely to make you quit, she admits. But the Costco trials have taught Gebhart that her pizzas are appealing to far more than just the gluten-free crowd.
She’s earned rave reviews from shoppers who have sacrificed regular pizza because they’re trying to lose weight, they’re a serious athlete or they’re diabetic.
Between these customers and those who are gluten-intolerant, Gebhart believes her product can thrive.
She’ll be at Costco in Culver City on Sept. 22 and then in Los Feliz on Sept. 24.
She is thrilled to meet more potential customers, but her two most important patrons will be waiting at home in The Highlands—Sadie and Jake are bound to be beneficiaries of more Courtney’s Smart Carbs sneak peeks in the months to come.