Made There: Ancient Grains Kitchen bakes up tasty gluten-free treats

Cynthia Holmes finds magic in the unexpected.

Cynthia Holmes clearly remembers the first time she tried a gluten-free cookie. It was a taste that immediately inspired her to launch her own gluten-free bakery, Ancient Grains Kitchen of Poulsbo, Washington. Since then, Cynthia, along with business partner Karen Fischer, has added sister brands Reko’s Dream Dog Bakery (gluten-free dog crackers) and Miracle Morsels (assorted granolas).

The road to a successful trifecta of gluten-free businesses was a rocky one. In 2009, Cynthia was diagnosed with breast cancer. During treatment, she silently volunteered her friendship and encouragement to anyone who might need it. An offering of sorts to the universe. To Cynthia, finding a way to learn and help others through her experience felt like the right thing to do. When Cynthia entered recovery, she was hit with a different setback – celiac disease. Thus, her encounter with the aforementioned offensive cookie. Cynthia was determined to improve upon gluten-free baked goods and began developing recipes, quietly at first. But a chance encounter proved to be the push she needed to go public.  

This video is part of our “Made There” series about local artisans. View more videos from Seasons 1 and 2

“It was almost like some sign from the universe that this was a good thing to do,” Cynthia says. “My sister called me one day and she said, ‘My friend Moira has just been diagnosed with exactly the same cancer as you.’ She said, ‘Would you come over and have lunch and talk to her?’”

The universe had responded to Cynthia’s offer and a new friendship blossomed. Moira, a cartoonist and graphic designer, hit it off with Cynthia right away. It was Moira’s cartoons that inspired Cynthia to move forward with the playful branding of Ancient Grains Kitchen. Moira also lent her artistic abilities to the branding for Reko’s Dream Dog Bakery, expertly capturing the essence of the sweet pup who inspired business partner Karen to create the gluten-free dog treats. This would be one of the final projects of Moira’s career; sadly, she passed away in 2021.

Cynthia and Karen continue to build upon their success, having recently added a third business to their kitchen, granola brand Miracle Morsels. Starting early in the morning to tackle the project of the day, they consult a rotating calendar of gluten-free recipes for both human and canine. Their work is focused but fun, filled with music and laughter, impromptu sing-alongs and the occasional dance party. Adding to the joy is the happiness that comes with being able to help others through the food they create.

Fun and delicious baked goods are guaranteed at Ancient Grains Kitchen. But the seasoned friends and business partners know things can turn in a moment's notice. Through the ups and downs, Cynthia and Karen have always found comfort in their friendship. Karen laughed when a mutual friend commented on how much time she spends with Cynthia.

“We're doing stuff together all the time and they're like, man, you guys must really like each other. You spend a lot of time together,” Karen recalled. “And we do, we really do. And that's pretty, that's special.” 

The duo show no signs of slowing, continuing to churn out gluten-free cookies, crackers and granola for folks in the Pacific Northwest. And whether or not you require a special diet, these baked delights go beyond their stand-alone presentation. Cynthia loves to dress them up to create decadent desserts. 

Easy Treats

Cynthia loves developing recipes from the products she and Karen have created. Here are a few ideas on how you can reimagine cookies and granola.

  • A super simple way to amp up these cookies is by adding one simple ingredient: ice cream. Cynthia loves to use her signature Ginger Smack with vanilla ice cream to create an ice cream sandwich that packs a punch. Pairing the Chocolate Jackpot cookies with coffee ice cream is also a big winner. 
  • Cynthia also recommends using cookies as a cheesecake base. She loves adding Coconut Lime Bliss cookies to the base of a cheesecake for a tropical twist.
  • Granola is a great ingredient to use for apple or peach cobbler. Simply crush the granola, add butter (and brown sugar for extra sweetness), and crumble over the top of the fruit before baking until golden and bubbly.
  • Granola clusters are a simple no-bake cookie that can be made with granola, dried fruits or nuts, and chocolate melted with coconut oil. Combine the ingredients and drop spoonfuls onto parchment paper to cool.

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