Spending time with my family back home over Easter got me thinking about gluten-free treats for both kids and adults alike (that can also double up as a great on-the-go breakfast or a snack while you in the office or are catching a flight).
We recently found out that my little niece – despite being a knowledgeable child that educates adults about “junk” foods being bad for you – is gluten intolerant. And the scary thing is that she is not the only one – in this day and age a lot more people are finding it hard to tolerate gluten.
Gluten – which is Latin word meaning glue – refers to the substance that gives elasticity to dough. Gluten intolerance is not the same as food allergy, it is a condition when glutens are not digested and cannot be expelled from your body. As a result, they remain in your small intestine, irritating your gut and flattening the microvilli (small finger-like projections on the surface of the cells that increase the surface area of the cell), without which you have considerably less surface area with which to absorb the nutrients from your food. The range of symptoms associated with gluten intolerance is really broad and nonspecific – covering such symptoms as nutrient deficiencies, chronic fatigue, neurological problems, anemia, nausea, skin rashes, depression and so on. Basically, gluten intolerance can affect nearly every tissue in the body, including the stomach, brain, skin, endocrine system, liver, blood vessels, smooth muscles and even the nucleus of cells.
Gluten occurs in wheat and other grains, including barley and rye, and in foods or drinks derived from them, but not in corn, rice, or oats (but you need to make sure these are not processed in the same factory as wheat). However you will be surprised to know that it is not only breads, pasta, cakes and cereals that get placed on the food with gluten list. A lot of processed products – like hot dogs, soy sauce, dressings, many chocolates and candies, and majority of the processed meats and meals – all contain gluten.
Over the years both our lifestyles and the food industry have changed dramatically. Living busier lives, which often mean we are constantly on the move, has changed the way we interact with food. But an even bigger change has happened in the food industry as mass production, pesticides, antibiotics, preservatives, GMO, artificial flavour and colours entered the world of food. And with all those changes, gluten intolerance is also on the rise in modern society as sugar, alcohol, antibiotics, environmental toxins, and other allergens (such as GMO) are all contributing to imbalanced intestinal flora, which can in turn lead to gluten-intolerance.
While myself I am not gluten-intolerant, I still find that I feel much better – more energetic, less bloated etc – when I do not include gluten into my diet. However, we all have days when we crave a delicious baked treat – and these cookies hit just the spot on such days.
Quick and easy to make, these are not only gluten- and sugar-free, but are deliciously sweet and moist, with a crunch coming from walnuts and cocoa nibs. They are not only a wonderful treat, but also double up as a great snack when you are on the go.
2 medium ripe bananas (the ones have lots of brown spots all over the skin)
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed * + 5 Tbsp water, mixed together and left to sit for 15 mins (best left in the fridge) to thicken into a thick sticky goo (this creates a binding agent that is used instead of eggs in this recipe)
1/2 cup natural crunchy peanut butter (make sure that peanuts are the only ingredient in the peanut butter you buy)
3 Tbsp honey (or maple syrup if you are vegan)
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cup gluten free rolled oats (grind 1/2 cup of oat into flour and leave the remaining 1 ½ cups whole)
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp baking powder (gluten free)
pinch of pink Himalayan salt
a large handful of raw walnuts, lightly crushed
a handful of cocoa nibs
Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.
Mash in the bananas with a fork until they resemble a smooth batter, and then add all your wet ingredients – peanut butter, melted coconut oil, honey and vanilla extract – and stir. Then add the flaxseed and water mixture, which should have thickened by now and will work as a binding agent for the dough.
Now add your dry ingredients – oats, almond meal, oat flour, salt and baking powder – and mix well.
As a final step, add cocoa nibs and walnuts and stir until well distributed. Refrigerate the dough for 5 to 15 minutes to harden, which will make it easier to assemble the cookies.
I use an ice cream scoop (dipped in water to help prevent the dough from sticking) to make uniformly sized cookies and arrange them on a baking sheet (makes around 12-16 cookies). Bake in pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cookies are slightly golden brown. Once the desired colour, take them out of the oven and transfer to cool. After completely cooled, store in an air-tight container to keep fresh for up to a week.
* Note that if you buy pre-ground flex seed, it must be stored in the fridge once opened in order to avoid the oils becoming rancid. Otherwise buy whole flaxseed and grind in a spice / coffee grinder