Gluten sensitivity and gluten intolerance are phrases we are all hearing a lot about lately. Many people now are experiencing problems digesting foods that contain gluten, and we are more aware than ever of the ingredients in the foods we eat. Gluten-free labeling is seen on a great deal of packaged foods these days. You might even have a friend or family member with this condition.

What is gluten exactly? It is a combination of two proteins, gliadin and gluetenin, that combine with starch and are found in most pasta, breads, crackers and cookies. When someone is gluten intolerant they will develop various symptoms when digesting wheat flour; these can range from mild to serious. People with celiac disease are on the extreme end of the spectrum of gluten intolerance and can become deathly ill if gluten is present in their food. Over time, intolerant individuals can become even more sensitive to gluten as the undetected illness damages the small intestine.

Symptoms of gluten sensitivity include digestive ailments such as bloating, cramping, weight loss or gain, inflammation, anemia, lactose intolerance, chronic fatigue, body aches, frequent infections, headaches and mood swings. Because symptoms are often misdiagnosed, the easiest way to find out if this is your issue is to either get tested or stop eating foods containing wheat for a duration of time and see how you feel afterward.

If you have a gluten intolerance, it is important that you read the full ingredient list on all packaged foods to be sure you are safe. Many people are unaware they are consuming wheat in hidden places such as soy sauce, beer, many bottled sauces, dressings and snacks. I still believe the best defense is to cook your own food. Thankfully, there are plenty of places to buy gluten-free ingredients, such as your local health food store, the natural foods section of the supermarket and places such as Ocean State Job Lot.

Here are a couple of delicious gluten-free recipes for your enjoyment.

Brownies RGluten Free Brownies
Makes 16 brownies

Ingredients

2/3 cup good quality cocoa powder (such as Ghirardelli or Valrhona)
6 Tb. organic coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup brown rice, oat or almond flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup chopped nuts, optional

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Combine the cocoa powder and coconut oil in a small bowl and mix well. In a separate bowl mix the flour, sugars and salt. Add the cocoa mixture, eggs and vanilla and blend well.
  2. Bake in an 8 by 8 inch greased square pan for about 20 to 25 minutes or until they are firm but slightly soft in the center. Cool and then cut into squares.

Nutty Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 2 ½ dozen

Ingredients
*1 1/2 cups organic rolled oats, toasted in a 350 oven for 6 min., ground in food processor, cooled
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup raw almonds or hazelnuts toasted in 350 oven for 10 minutes, cooled, roughly chopped or 1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup good quality dark chocolate chips**
1/2 cup walnut or hazelnut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla

 Procedure

1. Preheat oven to 375. Line two baking sheet pans with parchment, set aside.

2. Combine oats, flour, salt, soda, nuts and chips in a large bowl stir and set aside. Combine the oil, syrup and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk. Stir wet into dry ingredients just until mixed.

3. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto sheet pans about 1 1/2 inches apart. Flatten dough with fingers.

4. Bake one pan at a time until lightly browned on bottom about 15 min. Cool and remove to wire rack. Repeat with the other pan and remaining dough.

* You can also buy already made organic oat flour.

** For a vegan cookie carob chips can be used.

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