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Coconut Flour Double-Chocolate Brownies, Gluten Free

Coconut Flour Double-Chocolate Brownies, Gluten Free

 

Coconut Flour Double Chocolate Brownies. Gluten Free, Low Carb Decadence!

Coconut Flour Double Chocolate Brownies. Gluten Free, Low Carb Decadence!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted… and there are several reasons for that.. but instead of going into details with this initial return post, I figured I’d just give you all some chocolate first!

Photo May 02, 7 09 01 AMIsn’t that the best way to kiss and make up??
A little chocolate brownie action to ease re-entry to the blogosphere 🙂

The reason for this recipe, is that after a long while following Wheat Belly, I realized that my system doesn’t do all that well with the straight almond flour recipes. I can have a little here and there, but with digestive issues, I’ve been working on alternatives. Coconut flour is great for this, as its density works well with the texture of a brownie. Instead of going for light like I do in my muffin recipes, this is a more dense texture, and depending how long you choose to bake it, even a bit on the gooey side!

I realize that 6TB doesn’t seem like much flour, but remember that coconut flour is much more absorbent than other grain and nut flours. It cannot be substituted, recipes need to be crafted specifically for coconut flour. If you wish to make this recipe dairy free, substitute coconut oil for the butter, perhaps adding a pinch of salt.

Coconut Flour Double-Chocolate Brownies
(about 72g net carbs for entire recipe; 16 servings 4.5g each,
32 servings 2.25 each. Add more for additional ingredients)

  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

    Ready to bake!

    Ready to bake!

  • 6 TB butter
  • 1/4 C cashew butter
  • 1 TB vanilla
  • 1/2-3/4C sweetener such as Swerve or Truvia
    if you prefer more or less sweet, adjust to your taste
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 TB maple syrup or sugar free syrup if you prefer
  • 6 TB coconut flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder, sifted
  • 2 TB cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 C chopped walnuts, pecans, or nut of choice
  • 1/2 xanthan gum (optional!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a loaf pan by lining with buttered baking parchment, or use a non-stick pan such as the silicone loaf pan I show here.

Combine first 3 ingredients and either melt together in the microwave, or heat over low in a pan on the stovetop, stirring until all ingredients are softened and combined. Remove from heat, transfer to medium mixing bowl and cool slightly. Stir in vanilla, sweetener, eggs and syrup.

Sift together coconut flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and xanthan gum (if using.) Stir dry ingredients into wet mixture. Add chopped nuts. (I sometimes add dark chocolate chips or dried berries, but realize this will raise carb count.)

Spoon mixture into loaf pan, patting top to even it out. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes depending on your oven and level of doneness you prefer. I use a convection oven, and 18 minutes gives me a gooey center, 20 is firm, 22 is a bit stiff and crumbly. Allow to cool slightly and eat, or refrigerate. If desired, frost with cream cheese frosting.

Photo May 04, 1 36 12 PM

 

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Coconut Shrimp {Grain-free and Low Carb}

Coconut Shrimp, Gluten and Grain Free!

Coconut Shrimp, Gluten and Grain Free!

 

This is a super simple recipe that is great for coconut shrimp, but it’s also wonderful for chicken strips or anything else that you may want to pan fry without traditional grain flours. The main ingredients in the “breading” are almond flour, shredded coconut and grated Parmesan cheese, and while I will give you the proportions that I used, feel free to tinker with the ratios to your own liking! I added a little Old Bay seasoning to compliment the seafood flavor I was after, but many times I will use my own seasonings such as garlic powder, fresh cracked pepper, oregano, basil, cayenne pepper, or whatever you prefer. This is less sweet than many versions of coconut shrimp I’ve had in the past, but my palate prefers it that way. If you’d like it sweeter, just add a little sweetener (such as Swerve or Truvia)  to the dry ingredients.

I splurged a little on carbs when it comes to the marmalade dip, but it’s much lower than a traditional dip. Using the low sugar marmalade, and mixing in some butter and sriracha (hot sauce) will give you the flavor without the usual high carb content. If you want to stay Wheat Belly compliant, skip the sauce!

We love shrimp, and I much prefer to buy it raw than pre-cooked. We don’t have easy access to fresh seafood where we live, but frozen is great as well. When I peel the shrimp (after thawing), I like to leave the last tail section in place, but remove everything else. To devein, run a sharp knife along the backside of the shrimp, removing the dark vein. To butterfly, as I do for this recipe, remove the vein and then slide the knife a little deeper to open up the shrimp, but be careful not to cut all the way through. Here is a 25 second video demo in case you need a little visual to help!

Coconut Shrimp

Egg mixture and breading

Egg mixture and breading

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb large raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, butterflied and patted dry
  • 1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 C shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 C almond flour
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning (or seasonings of your choice if altering)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 C mayonnaise
  • coconut oil for pan frying

Directions:
Combine the Parmesan cheese, almond flour, shredded coconut and seasonings; set aside.

Frying shrimp in batches

Frying shrimp in batches

Beat together eggs and mayonnaise. Heat coconut oil in a skillet (I used our new ceramic coated non-stick, which rocked!) over medium-high heat. Dredge each shrimp in the egg mixture, removing excess against the side of the dish, and then press into the almond flour mixture to coat. Place each shrimp into the hot oil, cooking about 3 minutes per side, turning once. Cook in batches, moving shrimp as needed to ensure even browning. Remove to plate to cool. Serve with marmalade dip if desired.

A plate of shrimpy goodness!!

A plate FULL of shrimpy goodness!!

 

Low-Carb Marmalade Dip

  • 1/4 C reduced sugar marmalade, melted
  • 1/4 C melted butter
  • dash of sriracha or other hot sauce

Combine all ingredients and serve with coconut shrimp.

Healthy fried food is possible!

We don’t have fried foods very often, but late on a Saturday night, using healthy coconut oil, this was perfect!!

 

 

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Making Gomasio {Sesame Salt}

Gomasio

One of the beautiful things about the world of blogging is that we are in an atmosphere of sharing and learning. While some of my foodie counterparts are grain free, low carb and some are not, there is much to be learned all the way around when paying attention to other writers. Recently, I saw a post by the talented Julie Minten on her blog, Grano Salis, talking about home made gomasio. Hmmmm… I had no idea what gomasio was before that, not to mention that one could make it at home!

So that post of hers sparked an interest and I began investigating more about gomasio and why I might want to attempt to make a batch! It turns out that it is sesame salt, a condiment that is wonderfully flavorful while providing the health benefits of sesame seeds. It is an essential seasoning in macrobiotic diets, and allows one to use less salt while adding flavor.

I have a collection of mortars and pestles, but this is the largest and heaviest, which is perfect for this task.

According to an article by Harold Kulungian, gomasio has medicinal powers that include soothing digestion, adding energy, help in healing inflammatory disorders, and possibly even help with cancer and diabetes. He goes on to talk about how gomasio de-acidifies the blood which leads to more balanced health. His article also provides a recipe if you are interested in checking it out. One of the biggest keys is making sure to grind it by hand, not using a blender. He uses a suribachi (Japanese wooden, grooved mortar and pestle.) Gomasio is also featured in blogs that promote health and beauty, such as at Beauty is Wellness, where Jolene Hart talks about the health and beauty benefits of gomasio made with added seaweed.

After digging around, I was convinced that it would be worth the effort to make my own, and I also decided that I wanted to include some seaweed flakes in half of the batch. I have a nice amount of both white and black sesame seeds on hand as I picked some up recently at our bulk food store. I have sea salt as well as some earth salt that I wanted to include. While it did take awhile to crush by hand in the mortar and pestle, it is delicious and I know I will be keeping a supply on hand from now on! This is my own version, and it varies in salt content from some other recipes I found, but the salt I used seemed milder than usual, so I adjusted. (Scroll down past the images to see the entire recipe.)

Roasting the salts, getting all the moisture out in preparation for grinding with the mortar and pestle.

Toasting the sesame seeds to crisp them slightly and activate the oils. Do not over cook or burn, just get them to the point of crunching when squeezed.

Beginning to grind the sesame seeds and salt in my heavy mortar and pestle.

Grinding the seeds takes time. Be patient.

Grinding the seeds takes time. Be patient.

Finely chopping the seaweed sheets to add to a portion of the gomasio.

Gomasio {Sesame Salt}

  • 1 Tb sea salt (fine)
  • 1 Tb earth salt
  • 6 Tb white sesame seeds
  • 6 Tb black sesame seeds
  • 4 sheets (2″x3″) toasted seaweed (optional)
  1. Begin by roasting the salt over medium heat in a heavy skillet to remove moisture.
  2. Transfer to mortar and grind to a fine texture.
  3. Next, lower heat to medium/low and roast the sesame seeds, stirring frequently until they are lightly toasted and crunchy, but not dark.
  4. Carefully transfer to mortar with the salt and begin to grind in a gentle crushing motion to release the oils. Have patience, as grinding the seeds by hand will take some time. You may even want to consider this a sort of peaceful quiet or meditation time, just enjoying the process. It took me perhaps 20 minutes to get the consistency I desired, though you may prefer it finer.
  5. If you are not adding seaweed, you are done now, and can store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. I found conflicting opinions on whether the seasoning should be refrigerated or not; some said it spoiled in the fridge, others said the opposite. As I can tell already, I will be using this quickly enough that I am just storing it in the pantry with my other seasonings.
  6. If using seaweed sheets, you may want to toast them further in your same skillet, just be sure that they are dry and easy to chop.
  7. When toasted, transfer to a cutting board, and using a large, heavy knife, finely dice the sheets into small flakes and add to the gomasio. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Here, I have used gomasio on freshly sliced garden cucmbers. Delicious!

 

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A New Gadget and Grain Free, Low Carb Zucchini Au Gratin

I am sure you know what time it is… ZUCCHINI TIME!

Whether you have a garden, have a friend with a garden, or merely have your eyes open at the Farmer’s Market, there is no avoiding zucchini! And to be fair, who would want to?! It’s plentiful, healthy, tasty and pairs very well with many other foods. Heck, it even mimics other foods at times, as anyone who has had a Mock Apple Pie can attest. This recipe though, is just zucchini being, well, zucchini! I wanted a different way to prepare one of our favorite summertime veggies, and I also wanted to try out my new kitchen gadget.

Gefu Spirelli Slicer

As my fellow WB’ers have been ranting about the Gefu Spirelli, I figured it was time to cave in and give it a whirl. I am not as easily converted to gadgetry as many home chefs I know, but I will acknowledge that some are useful or simply fun. This one is a bit of both. At $29.99 (with free shipping) it wasn’t overly cheap, but it also didn’t break the bank. The purpose of the Spirelli is to transform your vegetables into ribbony strands suitable for replacing pasta, making salads, or just garnishing platters of yummy foods. My main objective was to turn zucchini into a replacement for spaghetti squash, which in itself was a replacement of a carb-frantic staple (ahem, pasta) that I no longer keep in my kitchen! Overall, I am pleased with my new purchase, though I do wish there was a way to feed that last couple inches of remaining veggie into the gizmo, as I didn’t like having to set it aside or finish it by hand with a knife. I do like it though, and look forward to more concoctions that make use of it.

After I had turned a few of my garden gems into a pile of stringed zucchini, I realized I had better figure out what to make of it 😉 I already had baked chicken in the works, so I didn’t have a need for faux pasta. Since I always have an abundance of cheese on hand, I figured that an au gratin would be a good side dish. I will admit, I didn’t tweak this recipe, make it 5 times, or do anything else so lofty, I just threw some ingredients together and it came out delicious. In fact, with a pan that was big enough that we should have had leftovers… we didn’t.

The hard part is recalling exactly what I did… ooops! Well, this is the recipe as closely as I can recall. But please don’t shoot me if you try it and it’s imperfect, though I suspect there is reasonable room for error. The coconut flour I added with the thought that zucchini usually releases quite a bit of liquid… and most of us know that coconut flour is the most liquid-absorbing ingredient in our grain-free pantries! It worked very well.

Zucchini Au Gratin- Grain Free, Low Carb

  • 3-4 C shredded or julienned zucchini
  • 1 C milk (or almond milk)
  • 1/4 C Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 1/2 C shredded cheese (I used colby jack)
  • 1/4 C shredded cheese (for top)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 Tb coconut flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

My oven was already heated to 400 degrees from roasting chicken, so that is what I used.
Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk and cream. Stir in garlic and cheese (saving the 1/4 C for the top.) Stir in the coconut flour, being sure it breaks up completely. Stir in the zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and pour into the prepared casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown and it appears to be done.

 

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Pizza: Cheese-Crusted, Gluten-free, Grain-free!

Now, if you are not a low-carber, you may want to avert your eyes…

No really, do it now. I’ll wait.

If you are still reading, I am going to assume that a pizza crust made with 3 kinds of cheese, eggs, and no flour is RIGHT up your alley! I will admit that while I am 99% grain free (other than an occasional delectable sushi roll, oops) even I was feeling a little guilty with this cheesy indulgence, but it sure was good!

Many of you have either found me through my posts on the Wheat Belly blog or Facebook page, and even if you found me through the wonderful world of food and health blogging, you likely know how enthusiastic I am about the wheat free lifestyle! One of the cool things about being part of a thriving Wheat Belly (WB) community online is that everyone is more than happy to share their experiences, advice and recipe tips! In a recent post, after I suggested the Socca Pizza crust with Garbanzo flour, a fellow WB’er shared her favorite gluten-free pizza crust recipe (which is veryyyy low carb), and I gave it a whirl… YUMMO!

So, since one good turn deserves another, I am sharing the link to the original page HERE, at Gluten Free Easily, with pictures of a very classic-looking pepperoni pizza. I will definitely have to make this version when I have pepperoni on hand, but since I didn’t, I improvised with what I did have.

Here you see the crust ingredients spread into a parchment-lined pan.

Cooked up and ready to be decked out!

Sauteed crimini mushrooms

Wilted spinach and garlic.

Our Pizza toppings included: spinach sauteed with minced garlic, sauteed crimini mushrooms, left-over pork chop, thinly diced and crisped in a pan, and some crumbled feta cheese, along with the Organicville spaghetti sauce and some shredded mozzarella cheese mixed with chopped fresh basil.

Our first cheese crust pizza! Mushrooms on one half only 😉

 

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Socca Saga! Or Chickenpea Flat Bread Pizza Crust (tried and tried again…)

Socca pizza is new to me, but I think I may be on the tail-end of this trend, as I found numerous recipes and blog entries about this flatbread style pizza made from chickpea flour. The quest for socca actually started out as a quest for a good grain free pizza crust recipe using garbanzo bean flour, as I scored a nice bag of organic at a local bulk store, and was interested in using it in recipes. Chickpea flour is one of the healthier alternatives on my flour chart, because it is low in net carbs and has a decent amount of fiber and protein.

This is the “flopped” version. Still delicious!

The concept of this crust is pretty simple, but it took me a couple tries to get a pan that cooperated with my intentions 😉 The recipes that I found all called for a cast iron skillet, but the only cast iron one I have is enameled, and unfortunately it didn’t work the way I had hoped. The flatbread wouldn’t come loose from the bottom to be flipped, so I ended up broiling it for a couple minutes to get the top set before adding toppings and baking it. It turned out more like a pizza casserole, but my son was totally thrilled with it, and thought it tasted like lasagna!

 

 

The next attempt was MUCH better (at least in terms of making a flippable crust), as I used a stainless steel Cuisinart skillet that I have had for ages (it is really heavy and beautiful); it was a garage sale score for just a few dollars! I have been very lucky to combine retail purchases with amazing finds at thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets to help outfit my kitchen with the essentials (and NON essentials as well!)

 

Basil fresh from the garden

Basil and Mozzarella

For toppings, use whatever you wish that fits into your dietary plan. I love tomato sauce, but am careful to choose those that are low in carbs. Organicville Gluten Free tomato basil sauce has only 6g of  carbs per serving, while many others are well into the teens… so be sure to read labels! I love garden fresh basil on pizza, so I combined chopped basil with the mozzarella cheese to be sure the flavor was infused into every bite!

 

Tomatoes on my half!

Socca Pizza Crust (Chickpea)

  • 2/3 C chickpea flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C cold water
  • 1 Tb olive or coconut oil
  • optional: add seasonings such as garlic powder, cracked pepper and dried herbs
  1. Mix all ingredients together and let sit for 30 minutes, then whisk in the oil. The batter will be relatively thin.
  2. Batter

    Heat skillet over medium/high and grease well with oil (I used coconut oil.)

  3. While skillet is heating, also preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Gently pour the batter into the pan in a round shape, smoothing out if needed. It’s best to do this quickly, as the batter will begin to cook as soon as it hits the heated surface.
  5. As the edges start to get set, I worked a sharp spatula underneath to keep it from becoming too stuck. When the edges are browned and it seems set (a few minutes), carefully flip. I used two spatulas to make this easier.
  6. You can bake on the same pan if it is oven proof, or transfer to another baking sheet. Add whatever toppings you desire and bake until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.

Delicious with crispy edges!

 

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Recipe: Frozen Raspberry Cheesecake Bars {Gluten Free}

How would you like a decadent frozen treat that adds up low in carbs, but high in taste and satisfaction? Just in time for the holidays? I used my 9″x9″ square stone baking dish for this, and cut it into 20 bars. By my calculations, following this recipe, that is under 4g of carbs per piece! Guilt-free and perfect timing for your 4th of July celebrations.

It seems that lately, I’ve been focusing a lot more on information about the wheat free, low carb lifestyle, than I have about the food! Trust me folks, I am still cooking and baking… and taking pictures and writing notes, but with summer so busy, I haven’t had as much time to pass the recipes along to you! Well, sometimes it just takes something REALLY special to break a pattern, and this recipe is it! MMMMM.

I had been thinking for a while that the crust recipe in Raspberry Streusel Bars would be a fabulous cheesecake crust, and that became the first layer in these yummy bars. Made with almond flour, butter and Truvia, it makes for a delicious cookie-style crust that stands up well to the other ingredients. Layer 2 is all about cheesecake! Rich and thick, it gives the real substance to this treat. The 3rd layer is where the raspberry comes in, though you could certainly change this up with your favorite flavors or experiment. Top it all off with a layer of sweetened whipping cream, and you have an amazing summer treat. While serving it chilled would be great, frozen was fabulous!

And don’t fret….. it may seem like a long list of ingredients at first glance, but you will notice that several of the ingredients (whipping cream, sour cream, vanilla, sweeteners) are used in more than one layer. It was just easier to list them separately for assembly purposes.

Frozen Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

Crust Layer:

  • 2C blanched almond flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2T butter (or coconut oil )
  • 1T vanilla extract
  • 1T water
  • 1 tsp Truvia or other sweetener

Cheesecake Layer:

  • 8oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2C sour cream
  • 1T vanilla
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4Tb erythritol

Raspberry Layer:

  • 1/2 C heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 C sour cream
  • 1T erythritol
  • 1C Smucker’s low sugar raspberry preserves

Whipped Topping:

  • 1/2C heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp Truvia
  • 1T vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Make the crust: blend all crust ingredients together in a food processor. Line a 9″ by 9″ baking dish with parchment and press crust mixture firmly into pan. Bake for 15 minutes (I turn my pan halfway through baking.) Remove from oven and set aside

3. Make cheesecake filling: In a stand mixer, beat softened cream cheese until smooth. Add sour cream and beat to combine. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and erythritol and beat (on medium) until well-combined, but not whipped. Pour over crust and smooth out. Bake for 20 minutes, turned pan halfway through baking to ensure even cooking. Remove and let cool completely.

4. Make raspberry layer: Whip the cream until it begins to get stiff. Add sour cream, and erythritol and beat to combine. Fold in the raspberry preserves. Spread over the cooled cheesecake layer. Chill for 15 minutes to firm up.

5. Make the topping: Whip the cream on medium high until soft peaks begin to form. Add vanilla and Truvia and continue whipping until firm. Spread over raspberry layer. Chill or freeze completely before serving. Cut into 20 bars. (Tip, To cut while frozen, I scored the top and then used my food blade to press through.)

Makes 20 servings; 4g carbs each.

 

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The Dangers of Wheat, Don’t Let Addiction Fool You.

Life is…

When talking to interested (but skeptical) people, about my family’s experience being gluten free, a phrase that comes up a LOT in regards to giving up wheat, even for a week-long trial, is:

“Life is too short to go without the things I love!”

In other words: “I deserve to enjoy my favorite foods and beverages in whatever shape and quantity I desire because it makes me happy right now. And I deserve to be happy! I work hard, I deserve pleasure and treats. Besides, I feel fine. Wheat isn’t hurting me. If I was sick, maybe I would consider it.”

When you look around at the health of our nation and our world, it is becoming more and more clear that this feeling of entitlement in combination with addictive substances, has created a deadly trend. There is more obesity and diabetes in adults and children than there has ever been. Auto-immune diseases are telling us that our bodies are fighting hard against things in our environment that we aren’t even aware of. When our immune system resources are being taxed so much by daily living, we have fewer resources left to fight off other threats to our health. While it is true that there are many potential hazards in our environments, there isn’t one that enters your system as directly and consistently as food, nor is there one over which we can exercise more control than our individual diets.

Hmmmm. I don’t know about you, but I am going to be 43 next month, and I have plans to be around until I’m between 85 and 105 😀  If something out of my control happens in the meantime, so be it, but I plan to do my part to be in good health for those remaining 42-62 years!!! I say:

“Life is too LONG to go without the things I love!”

The things I love happen to be health, peace of mind, wellness, love itself, creativity, freedom, energy, and to be a positive example to my son as well as other people in my life and world. I think that being deprived of these things is much worse than skipping pizza or making the vast majority of my meals at home. Looking at the big picture, those things are much more important to me than having convenient fast food, toxic carbs and sugars which create a temporary high, followed by regret and ill feelings. I want to control my food, not be controlled BY it.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the mindset that forgoing a certain food (or even material possession) equals deprivation. I mean, that is what our society is trained to believe since birth. Brainwashing us (err… I mean, Marketing) towards unhealthy foods as being “popular”, “exciting” and “hip”, starts when we are small children and continues… well, forever. Do you see cartoon characters advertising fresh produce? Did you ever dig to the bottom of a bag of carrots to find a toy? Or see a commercial where a bunch of trendy 20-somethings are sitting around discussing the benefits of eating greens every day, juicing or going without sugar? I haven’t. The Jolly Green Giant was probably the closest thing to a veggie mascot, and I miss him!

Back to the deprivation mindset… mindset and education is where we first need to make our changes. Having facts to build on, and then adjusting our perspective, is key to making lasting changes. So is imagination. It can be only a few small steps from imagining yourself in a healthy lifestyle and enjoying being free from pain (or fatigue, or excess weight, or…) and actually being there! It takes a dedication to your vision, because it might not be a one-step fix. There is much empowerment to be had by taking those first mental steps and then seeing the results. There is a quote I liked from a movie called The Edge with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin… “What one man can do, another can do.” Meaning that the difference is in determination and drive, not in ability in most cases. It’s down to wanting and needing to do something. Making up your mind.

Argument for Deleting the Wheat

Even if you don’t suspect you are gluten intolerant, or haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease, understanding the toxicity of wheat can be enlightening. Don’t believe the hype from some that gluten is a trendy new allergen. It is a toxin, and it is not digestible whether or not you have celiac disease!

A large part of the problem is that wheat products are so deeply ingrained (haha, punny) into the fabric of our society that it seems incomprehensible that they could be literally toxic. I had a hard time coming to terms with that concept at first too, but reading Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis really made a difference to my understanding. According to Davis (and supported by facts and research), the wheat of today is not the wheat of our ancestors; it has been changed a multitude of times through hybridization.

While hybridizing is not the same as genetic modification (GMOs, think Monsanto), it still changes the properties and composition of a plant from what it was before. A certain amount of this happens in nature on its own from cross-pollination, so on the surface it seems harmless. Scientists approach hybridizing with certain goals; in the case of wheat it was to enlarge the seed head to increase yield. When that was accomplished, further changes needed to be made to keep the wheat stalk from buckling over under the weight of the heavy tops, which ruined harvests. So now, instead of the “amber waves of grain” of our forebears, and 4 foot tall wheat plants, today’s wheat is about 2 feet tall on a stocky, sturdy plant.

This all sounds good so far… and it is good from a standpoint of increased production and being able to feed more people with less land (a noble goal, indeed.) However, not all the changes in wheat are ones that can be seen with the naked eye. The changes on the outside also changed the nutritive makeup on the inside, causing the gluten content to skyrocket. In fact, NEW glutens are present in modern wheat that were not present in the “parents” that it came from.

So what? Well, humans have evolved at a much slower pace in the sense that our digestive systems have not changed to keep pace with the new wheat. In fact, when wheat underwent all this modification, no studies were done to check that the end product was even fit for human consumption! I suppose it was just assumed that it would break down in the same ways as the old wheat, and that all was good. Unfortunately, that is not the case, which leads us to the current state of recognizing gluten intolerance and celiac disease.

The changes in wheat are one aspect, but the effects are compounded by the fact that wheat is no longer just eaten as a grain or in a piece of bread like our ancestors did… this ubiquitous grain is used everywhere in a myriad of products, in places you might not even think to look. This push of wheat (which is now plentiful and cheap thanks to the hybridization to increase yield) into so many processed foods has dangerously increased our exposure to gluten. Our bodies treat gluten as a toxic substance which triggers an immune system response, and leads to a host of health issues. On top of that, add in the addictive properties of wheat which cause us to crave more wheat-containing products and calories.

Addictive, I say? YES. Not just because we are in the habit of having bread and cereal and sweets, but because wheat is literally addictive in the sense that when it is digested, it results in certain polypeptides that cross into the brain and bind to opiate receptors. OPIATE RECEPTORS? Yep. As in drugs. Grains without gluten do not have the same effect… so this is an issue specific to wheat (also rye, spelt, triticale.) The fact that wheat acts like an opiate in the brain would explain why people are so defensive about going without it! Whether we know it or not, even the most health-conscious among us is getting a “fix” from that morning slice of 9-grain toast (ok, that was my vice!) To take this WHEAT as OPIATE stance one step further, there have been studies done that prove that the opiate-blocking drugs naloxone and naltrexone can be used to block the brain response to the wheat-derived polypeptides which create addiction and out of control appetite. This makes it easier to understand why we go through withdrawal symptoms when we drop the wheat in favor of a gluten free diet! And you can bet that those drugs are being researched as potential diet medications! The problem is that even if we manage to block the opiate response in the brain, continuing to eat wheat will continue to wreak havoc inside the body.

The other major argument against wheat is in regards to the insulin effect, and it applies to other high carbohydrate foods as well. This includes sugary foods in addition to alternate flours like rice, tapioca, potato, sorghum, etc. That is why I have chosen to not only go gluten free, but low carb. Many people who realize that they are intolerant to gluten first mourn the loss of bread, pasta, crackers, doughnuts etc… but then rapidly turn to alternate flours or ready-made processed gluten free foods on the market as a substitute. (I did that for the first week or so myself, until I read Wheat Belly.) While it’s true that a gluten intolerant person can eat these and bypass the symptoms such as headache, joint pain and digestive issues, the substitutions are every bit as bad for blood sugar as wheat products are.

This leads to weight gain (or at least prevents weight loss) and continues the risk of developing chronic health conditions. Also, the type of weight (visceral fat) that is gained because of insulin spikes is the kind that one carries around their midsection, which not only shows on the outside, but also wraps and permeates the organs on the inside (liver, kidneys, pancreas), causing inflammation and preventing the release of protective molecules which normally aid the body in preventing heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. There is a lot of science behind this, and I strongly recommend Dr. Davis’ book for a thorough and understandable explanation.

This is the reason you will see that the few baked goods that I include in my blog are based on using almond or coconut flours which are very low carb and a good source of protein. I have no interest to go to the lengths I have to improve my health just to sabotage myself with insulin-spiking foods. I am not judging anyone else for sharing their delicious solutions to gluten free baking that include other types of flours and starches, but personally those do not match the goals I have set for myself. (I realize that not everyone wants to lose weight, but even those who aren’t overweight can develop insulin resistance through repeated spikes in blood sugar.)

Let me help, let the community help… You are NOT alone!

So why did I bother to write this article if I am already off the wheat? To help you. To make a difference. To spread the word. To start/continue a movement. To educate. To start a dialog. To reinforce my own commitment and share. To get to know you. Really.

While it’s true that I am busy helping myself and my family, I know that in the world community we can also help each other through some of the rough spots. It is my sincere belief that if even one person decides to try going gluten free to help relieve their migraines, or joint pain, or any other symptom, because of something I wrote, it is well worth every hour spent crafting these words. But I would be ecstatic to influence as many as possible!

My personal family testimony may or may not be convincing to you, as I know it amounts to anecdotal evidence, but I share an update here anyway:

  • I haven’t had a migraine in the 7 weeks since I went gluten free. (3-4x week prior.)
  • My IBS symptoms are slowly improving all the time.
  • My joint pain (shoulders, hips, knees) is gone.
  • I have lost 14 lbs so far.
  • I never feel deprived of food, and eat when I’m hungry. No cravings.
  • I am sleeping well.
  • My skin and hair looks and feels healthier.
  • I have more patience and less anxiety.
  • I have more energy and focus, less frequent brain fog.
  • My husband has lost 18 lbs so far.
  • He hasn’t had an incidence of acid reflux in 7 weeks. (suffered often after meals prior.)
  • He has much increased energy and confidence.
  • His chronic shoulder pain has eased tremendously.
  • My son has increased focus.
  • He has gained about 5 lbs so far. (He needs to gain, not lose.)
  • He eats more often, finishes his lunch instead of leaving it.
  • He sleeps better.
  • His skin is clearer.
  • His frequent “growing pains” have subsided.
  • He has a sense of control knowing he can make his own health decisions.

Hopefully your discovery or diagnosis of gluten intolerance or celiac disease will open up a world of health benefits and wonderful foods that far outweigh the perceived restrictions and limitations. Just think, it just might be the best you’ve ever felt!!

FOR FURTHER READING:

Wheat Belly, a book by Dr. William Davis, and his Wheat Belly Blog.
Gluten:Bad for us All, and article by Dr. Rodney Ford
The Dark Side of Wheat, Part I and Part II, by Sayer Ji

 

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Butterbean Hummus with Smoked Paprika Oil

This “hummus” dip looks and sounds so good that I thought I would post it here for fellow gluten-free eaters! I enjoy the recipes, commentary and photography of FrugalFeeding’s blog, I hope you will as well!

FrugalFeeding

Hummus, a dip usually made with chickpeas, is by far my favourite dip. When made correctly, it has such a full and punchy flavour worthy of even the fattest cat’s mezze. As we all know, chickpeas make a truly wonderful hummus. However, with variety being the spice of life, there isn’t any harm in substituting them for a slightly different ingredient. Straying beyond the realm of the humble pulse would prove a little foolish in this case, so there we shall remain. Indeed, butterbeans make a pretty favourable choice, since they possess a particularly smooth and creamy texture. As such, this take on the Middle Eastern classic is equally, if not more, palatable than its esteemed counterpart. The use of paprika to make infused oil may appear a little frivolous on the surface, but it is an integral part to this dish. Not only does it give the hummus a…

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SIMPLE Cilantro Salmon and Almond Feta Green Beans

Ooops we were hungry and I forgot to take a picture once it was cooked!

One of my favorite easy, healthy recipes is baked salmon (Omega-3’s baby!), or really any kind of fish. I think a lot of people assume that fish is tough to prepare well, due to numerous restaurant experiences of dried out, deflated, tough, tasteless and otherwise ill-prepared salmon, tuna or whitefish (and the list goes on), that probably cost you between $12 and $20! I cringe every time a plate of ruined fish is brought out, and I have become much less shy about sending it back. Why is it so rare to get a tender, moist and delicious piece of salmon at a restaurant? I have no idea other than maybe a tendency to overcook, or preparation by someone who doesn’t care for fish themselves. My husband and I split the filet you see here, which I bought on sale for under $5.

Fish is very easy to prepare, and baking it is a great way to skip the breading (carbs) and make use of fresh herbs and lovely oils. As a rule of thumb, for a thick piece of fish like salmon, I roast in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. That’s it. No flipping, turning, fussing, just bake it and check it. If it is still a little translucent in the middle, give it a few more min, but generally not more than 20 minutes total. If the variety of fish you use is thinner, start with a shorter cook time. Prep time is under 5 minutes 😉

SIMPLE Cilantro Salmon

  • Salmon filet (I used Atlantic salmon because of the rich flavor)
  • 1-2 TB fresh lemon juice (or lime)
  • 1 TB Olive oil (butter, coconut or walnut oil work well too)
  • 1/4 C finely chopped fresh cilantro (try fresh fresh dill )
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Spread the olive oil in a baking dish, or in this case, I lined the dish with parchment to make clean-up easier. Rub the salmon face-down in the oil, then turn face-up and rub the skin side around to distribute oil and place in center of pan leaving skin side down. Cover in lemon juice, salt and pepper and cilantro. Bake for about 15 minutes or until desired doneness. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before dividing and serving.

I use this method as a base and change around the seasonings as the mood strikes or depending on what I have on hand. Try minced garlic, thinly sliced sweet onion, lemon zest, fresh dill or parsley, cumin, cayenne pepper… the list is only limited by what you enjoy, so experiment!

Almond Feta Green Beans

Another favorite at our house is green beans, in just about any form, we all love them! Add the crunch of slivered almonds and the tang of feta and lemon, and you have a flavorful and versatile side dish.

Almond Feta Green Beans

  • 1 lb fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 C slivered almonds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C crumbled feta

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients on baking sheet or dish and bake for about 15 minutes, turning beans with a spatula half-way through. Add crumbled feta and cook for 2-3 minutes more until cheese begins to soften. Remove and serve. About 2-3 servings.

I am sure you can tell by the temp and the cook times that I was able to cook the salmon and beans at the same time, and whip up a healthy and delicious dinner in about 30 minutes. It tastes first-rate, looks pretty, and is of course, gluten-free!!

 

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