Archives for posts with tag: gluten-free

While back in the ‘Burgh last month, my mother-n-law and I took my dinosaur-obsessed sons to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Wow.  I’m embarrassed to say that I went to exhibits and classes there a zillion times while we lived there but I had no idea they had redone (which is a total understatement) the dinosaur exhibits.  If you haven’t gone lately, please go.  Anyway…we ate at the museum cafe and had this incredible quinoa salad.  I wasn’t certain of all the ingredients but knew it had quinoa (duh), dried cherries, ginger and, I figured, some type of onion and green herb.  So I did an internet search for ‘quinoa cherry ginger’ and came up with this great recipe from the Meatless Monday website.  I’ve tweaked it a little but here’s the link for the original recipe:

If you check it out, you will see the recipe actually comes from a site called Domestic Divas.  I had not heard of it but spent a little time there & I encourage you to do the same.  It’s a terrific blog and I found a slew of recipes I plan to try.

It’s healthy and easy: my favorite thing about the recipe may be that you can do it all in one pan.

If you are new to quinoa (pronounced |ˈkēnwä|) don’t be intimidated.  I can just hear my friend Mark asking, ‘What the $*@# is quinoa?’!!! Quinoa is a non-gluten grain that is apparently not truly a grain but a relative of green leafy vegetables.  I learned to love it after reading CLEAN: Remove, Restore, Rejuvenate by Alejandro Junger, MD.  It’s one of the approved grains on his elimination diet/cleanse list of OK foods; his book contains a handful of easy quinoa-based recipes. I enjoy that it gives you the texture of rice but packs such an amazing nutritional punch.  It’s high in protein and is safe for those with Celiac Disease.  Not only is it high in protein, it is actually a complete protein, meaning it contains the nine essential amino acids.  I also just learned that it is very high in magnesium which apparently may benefit migraine sufferers.  If you haven’t visited already, please take a look at The World’s Healthiest Foods website; it’s a comprehensive resource if you are looking for the specific nutritional benefits of certain foods:

This recipe also contains pine nuts (which my nut-allergic friend Christie will be happy to know are optional; she’ll also be happy that I remembered she’s allergic to nuts, but that’s another story), fresh ginger root and parsley.  I’m a big believer in allowing our food to be medicine and these are three great foods for doing just that.

Pine nuts (or ‘pignoli’) contain the highest level of protein per gram of any nut.  The following information comes from a great review of their benefits from Today’s Women & Health:

‘Pine nuts are nature’s only source of pinoleic acid, which stimulates hormones and helps diminish your appetite.  They have the highest concentration of oleic acid: a monounsaturated fat that aids the liver in eliminating harmful triglycerides from our body which helps protect our heart.  Pine nuts are packed with 3mg of iron per one ounce serving. Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying pigment in blood that supplies energy.  Additionally, they are rich in magnesium which helps alleviate muscle cramps, tension and fatigue.’ (Another great food for migraine sufferers.)

Everyone knows ginger is good for nausea and helping with morning sickness, but there’s a reason why they serve it alongside sushi, specifically with sashimi.  I remember reading in Sushi for Dummies that this practice is to help kill any parasites and/or bacteria that could be present in the raw fish.  It’s also high in magnesium, potassium and other minerals.  Here’s a link for a more comprehensive list of its medicinal benefits:

Parsely is basically good for everything that ails you.  No joke.  It’s great to flavor foods, but also great to throw in with your vegetables if you own a juicer.  My green-thumbed-mother (sadly I did not inherit the gene) grows tons of it and tells me that my 4-year-old niece eats it by the fistful which I think is awesome.  Even Mrs. GoodStuff can’t get her kids to do that.  The benefits are so numerous and complex (just to name a few: cardio-protective, tons of anti-oxidants, protection against arthritis) that I’ll just give you the link if you want to see specifics:

Ok…enough about why this is so good for you…this recipe also tastes incredible.  And, as I mentioned, it’s incredibly easy to make and to clean up because it’s done in one pan.  This is great served chilled, but also warm (my preference), or hot.

1/4 c. pine nuts (or more if you’re a fan; I use a whole cup)

1+ Tbsp. olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 tsp. fresh ginger root, peeled & minced (also feel free to add more here; I use closer to 2 tsp.)

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 1/3 c. water

1/2 c. dried cherries (I use 1 cup.  *Use whatever dried cherries you like but note that most will contain some form of sugar and/or sulfites & oil as additives.  For this recipe, I use Whole Foods dried sour cherries; if you want one without any added sugar or sulfites, they are a little pricey but I’ll give you the link at the end of this recipe to the ones we get for snacking, adding to steel cut oats and for making trail mix.)

1/2 c. golden raisins

1 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, chopped

Freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts in a little olive oil then set aside (They toast quickly so pay attention and don’t let them get too brown!)

2. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in same skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallot & ginger.  Saute just about 2 minutes until they soften.

3. Add quinoa & stir to combine.  Cook for about 1 minute then add the water.

4. Bring to a boil, cover and cook about 8 minutes total.  (Add the dried cherries & raisins after about 4 minutes, then cook another 4 for a total of 8 minutes.)

5. Let sit, covered for a couple minutes, uncover and add the nuts, parsley and salt & pepper.  Toss with a fork.  Serve immediately or cool to desired temperature.


* Here’s the link to the dried cherries I get from (Whole Foods also carries them most of the time but if you choose the Subscribe & Save option, they are a much better price; please note that the labeling of these as ‘organic’ is legal under USDA regulations, but the cherries themselves are not organic.  I haven’t been able to find any organic varieties without sugar that taste good; however, they may be out there.  It’s worth finding a good-tasting brand that is organic and not sweetened with sugar because cherries consistently rank in the Top 10 most toxic fruits and veggies thanks to crazy levels of pesticides.  So if you know of a better brand, please share):

My friend Margo is one of those amazing bakers who can actually create her own recipes.  Anytime I try something new and want to figure out how to bake it, I go to her.  I can improvise fairly well when I’m cooking, but I respect baking as an exact science so I get a little nervous about changing ratios, etc.  Here is Margo’s recipe for crispy brown rice bars. I love being able to make this sort of thing for myself because 1) the cost for wholesome little snacks like these can equal the size of a mortgage payment over the course of a year 2) I just cringe every time I open one of the wrappers and know that most are headed for the land-fill 3) these are void of any preservatives that still come with many ‘natural’ and/or organic varieties.  

I’ve already praised the benefits of almonds and dried fruits (See the post with the recipe for date balls.), but these also contain one of my favorite ‘sneak-in’ ingredients: hemp seed.  I order mine in 5 lb. bags from Nutiva (  It is easily stored in the refrigerator and is a great addition to smoothies and salads.  For baby food or salad dressing, try adding their hemp oil.  Hemp seed contains the perfect 3:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids.  For a quick synopsis, here’s a quick read from Wikipedia:

In addition to being gluten-free, I also like that this recipe calls for brown rice syrup and honey rather than white or brown sugar or agave nectar. I’m certainly not an expert on sugars and I don’t mind a little agave now and then, but I do believe that sugar is not as innocuous as the marketing companies whose clients include children’s cereal manufacturers, ketchup manufacturers and ‘whole wheat’ bread manufacturers would like you to believe.  It wreaks havoc on our immune and digestive systems and everything else in between.  More on that later.

Brown rice syrup is a polysaccharide (or ‘complex sugar’) rather than a monosaccharide (or ‘simple sugar’).  It’s still a sweetener so it should be used in moderation, but because of its structure, the body breaks it down more slowly so you don’t get the crazy spike in blood glucose levels that occurs with simple sugars.  It also means that the body can utilize it for energy rather than storing it as fat.   Honey is also a natural sweetener but, unlike processed sugar (e.g. white sugar), it retains its own natural digestive enzymes and nutrients.  I don’t know much about it, but raw honey is a very popular choice because it is completely unprocessed and, as a result, retains all of its natural nutritional benefits. Apparently it is good for allergies and as a natural antibiotic.

A note about gluten free: Thanks Joan, who wrote in to ask about brown rice syrup being gluten free.  I’ve now specified in Margo’s recipe to use Lundberg Farms because both their organic and eco-farmed versions are gluten free.  That’s the only brand I have used so I mistakenly assumed all varieties are gluten free…not so.  I checked and they indicate that it’s actually the fermentation process that determines the distinction.  If the brown rice is fermented with barley enzymes, the result is NOT gluten free.  If fungal enzymes are used, the resulting rice syrup IS gluten free.  If eating gluten free is not important to you, then obviously use whatever brand of brown rice syrup you prefer.  

Enjoy the recipe that follows…thanks Margo!

My kids are obsessed with these organic crispy brown rice bars – but we go through a case of them in a matter of weeks.  When I complained about it, BethAnn said what she always says to me about pre-packaged snack food:  “Couldn’t you make those?”  And I responded the way I always do:  (apologetic grimace) “Yeah probably, but I never will.”  So tackled the brown rice bars and came up with this versatile recipe that I hope will become as popular in your house.  My kids like to help make them too.

Crispy Rice Bars

3 cups organic brown crisp rice cereal (I like Barbara’s brand)

¼ cup raw almonds

¼ cup raw cashews

¼ cup shelled hemp seeds

½ cup raisins (or other small dried fruit; add enough to suit your taste)

1/3 cup smooth nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, tahini, hazelnut would all work well, as would a combination)

¼ cup Lundberg Farms Gluten free brown rice syrup

¼ cup honey

Preheat oven to 350.

Grind nuts and seeds in a spice mill to coarse consistency.

Add these and raisins or other dried fruit to brown rice cereal.

Bring nut butter, honey and brown rice syrup to a boil in a small pot, and allow the mixture to bubble for about one minute (do not let it burn).

Pour nut butter mixture over rice mixture and stir thoroughly.

Turn out onto a greased 9×9 metal cake pan and press down with greased fingers.

Bake for about 10 minutes, just until edges begin to brown.

Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.

Store in layers separated by parchment in an airtight container.

After the granola recipe post, I received several emails asking about gluten-free options.  If this is something that concerns you because you truly need to be gluten-free (perhaps you have Celiac disease) or you have just noticed that limiting your intake of gluten makes you feel better, then the following information should be GOOD for you.

There is a book I highly recommend by Frank Lipman, MD called Spent, in which he describes the immune system response to gluten (which is a mixture of gliadin and glutenin proteins found in wheat, rye and barely) as making you feel ‘a vague unwellness’.  Perhaps you haven’t yet paid attention to gluten in your diet and this post will inspire you to do some further homework.  Dr. Lipman references a book Dangerous Grains by Dr. James Braly & Ron Haggan, M.A. in which they show research that suggests ‘that gliadin causes our immune system to to react as though it is responding to a foreign body rather than a nourishing food.’  They believe that some people produce a liver enzyme that helps our body to metabolize it but others don’t produce it and, as a result, the gluten isn’t broken into smaller particles (in other words, it’s not digested properly) and these bigger particles then leak through the walls of our gut and enter our bloodstream at which point our body attacks them as foreign substances.  I’m over-simplifying it, but as I’ve mentioned before, if you see your body’s energy as a ‘pie’, your immune system has to use a huge slice of your ‘energy pie’ to fight the effects, which leads to the ‘vague unwellness’ Dr. Lipman references.

The good news is that there are alot of whole foods that are satisfying alternatives to products containing gluten (cereals, pastas, commercially-produced cookies, etc.), such as brown rice, buckwheat, nut flours, quinoa and millet.  There are many packaged gluten-free products (pastas, fruit bars, etc.) but in my experience, many of them taste like cardboard.  However, there are a handful (and probably more that I’ve just never tried) of good options.  Many years ago, before I had even heard of gluten, my oldest brother got me hooked on Ezekial bread.  I actually started eating it to help reduce carbohydrates in my diet, back in the day.  Most large grocery stores and probably every health food store carry it in their freezer section. We love the cinnamon raisin variety (in the purple bag) and I happen to think the ‘plain’ version (the orange bag) is a little ‘cardboardy’ but I know plenty of people who like it.  It is a grain bread, but it is flourless and sprouted.  Dr. Lipman indicates that most people can tolerate it well.  Apparently, the problems that many have with gluten are actually with the gluten lectins which are primarily in the seed coatings and are actually destroyed in the sprouting process.  They also make English muffins, pitas bread and corn tortillas; we are big fans.

One friend wanted to know about the oats in Margo’s granola recipe. Here’s the deal with oats:  apparently, if they are pure and uncontaminated, they should not cause a problem.  Dr. Lipman references a study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 57, no. 1 (2004): 163-169 (S. Storsrud et al., “Adult Coeliac Patiens Do Tolerate Large Amounts of Oats”).

There are supposedly two companies that sell ‘pure oats’ that have not been cross-contaminated with wheat, barley and/or rye during harvesting, processing, etc.

I have not tried these so please do your own homework.  Here they are:

My boys would eat pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I let them. We do mostly 100% whole wheat pasta but if someone in the house seems a little under the weather, I’ll use the best gluten-free pasta I’ve tasted, which is from bionaturae; the best price I’ve found is from and here’s the link:

I know that many of you have had your own experiences with gluten-free products; please share if there’s anything you love and think we should all know about.

The response to the snowballs recipe was so terrific that I decided to include another variation that’s definitely much less involved.  And if you are a Larabar fan, you’ll really like these and will appreciate not having to recycle those little foil wrappers.  Just like the snowballs, these are high in fiber and potassium.  One thing I forgot to mention in the snowballs post: these recipes are also gluten-free.  We have found that by mainly focusing on whole and homemade foods in our house, we don’t have to be too concerned about gluten.  But, I know that some individuals are truly highly sensitive to gluten and need to eliminate it completely.  So these are a great on-the-go snack for kids for whom gluten may be a big concern.  This recipe uses walnuts, but feel free to substitute pecans, almonds…whatever you have on hand; my sons particularly like these with chopped dried cherries and pecans.  And if you are new to dates, pitting is easy: simply put a slice in them with a paring knife and the pit will pop out easily.  Anyone know if you can grow dates from those?

Date bars

about 3 or 4 Tbsp organic unsweetened coconut

14 ounce package organic Medjool dates, pitted

1/4 c walnuts (if you want, you can lightly toast the walnuts), chopped (I typically chop half very finely and leave the other half as small chunks)

Sprinkle about 2 or 3 Tbsp of the coconut in the bottom of a glass 8×8″ square baking dish.

Press the dates into the coconut, covering the entire bottom of the dish.

Quickly mix together the walnuts and the remaining coconut then cover the date layer by giving them a gentle push.

Cut into whatever shape you like.  Sometimes we do triangles, squares, rectangles, whatever.