Gluten Free For Good


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I’m thinking I may have over-done my anti-sugar tirade, so to make amends, I thought I’d post a gluten-free recipe of mine that is sweetly decadent AND healthy. In moderation, anyway. This is a recipe I posted in the beginning of my blogging days, but I felt it deserved a reprise. And you all know, there’s nothing like chocolate to soothe the soul. Or placate feisty hormones.

I’m sure you’ve also heard the good news that cocoa in small doses is actually quite good for us (more on that later). Yippee, hallelujah, and pass the dark chocolate.

But first, a bit about a conference I just attended — the national CSA (Celac Sprue Association) conference in beautiful (but flat) La Vista, Nebraska. Although I did hear that nearby Omaha is a fun city, I had no time to explore as I spent all my time in lecture halls.

CSA is a non-profit organization of “celiacs helping celiacs” and is a great resource for people struggling with a new diagnosis or those having trouble conforming to a gluten-free diet. Check out their website if you want more information about celiac disease, product listings, label reading, recipes, awareness, or how to find a local support group. CSA is a valuable resource — take advantage of what they have to offer and help support the cause.

Here’s a short list of the topics discussed at the conference (Harvesting Knowledge of Celiac Disease). I’ll spare you the sciency details, but if there’s anything you’d like more information about, please let me know and I’ll expand on that.

The topics listed below were discussed during a continuing education workshop for dietitians.

• Pathogenesis of celiac disease
• Celiac spectrum
• Pediatrics, breast feeding, introduction of gluten to infants
• Medical nutrition therapy for celiac disease
• Nutrient assessment, deficiencies, and nutrient intervention
• Theories for a gluten-free AND casein-free diet
• Autoimmunity and associated disorders
• Managing medical nutrition therapy as a dietitian
• GF diets for acute and residential care facilities
• Label confusion

My next list includes topics discussed during 3 days of information and updates by the medical, science, and support communities. There are a few eccentric and a touch “out there” doctors and scientists in this field. Thankfully so! Most of our top celiac experts are from other countries — Joseph Murray, M.D. (Mayo Clinic) is from Ireland; Peter Green, M.D. (Columbia University) is from Australia; Alessio Fasano, M.D. (University of Maryland) is from Italy; Stephano Guandalini, M.D. (University of Chicago) is from Italy; and Dr. David Sands, plant pathologist and biotech frontiersman is from Montana. Oh wait, Montana just seems like another country, but nonetheless, Dr. Sands is definitely part of this “out there” group of doctors and scientists making a huge difference in the world of celiac disease research and education. Too bad whoever named this disease didn’t come up with something a little cooler than the name celiac sprue. Maybe these guys could get more funding for their research if it all sounded a bit more glamorous — although not easy to do when you’re talking about gas, bloating, and intestinal distress. Things are changing though, our little GF community is even becoming somewhat trendy.

The above highlighted links are to each doctor and the celiac disease centers they are involved with. All are valuable resources. An additional link to information about Dr. Fasano’s research can be found here.

• Celiac disease — a spectrum disease with varied outcomes and challenges
• Sorghum and grain production research
• Review etiology of celiac disease and updates on research
• Healthier grains through biotechnology
• Celiac disease and how it affects family members
• Faith, personal beliefs, and celiac disease
• The search for celiac disease oral therapies
• Improving gluten-free foods
• Developing lifestyle skills
• Clinical trials for therapeutic pharmaceuticals

Lee Tobin, director of the Whole Foods Market GF Bakehouse, demonstrated techniques for preparing an assortment of GF grain recipes. He was the mad scientist of food preparation as he had several things cooking at once. I love watching chefs work their magic and Lee is no exception. I’ll post one of his recipes once I have (hopefully) permission to do so. His acorn squash with cranberry apple quinoa, braised chicken with millet skillet (cute name), New Mexican pozole, and Greek kasha salad were all amazing. Good gluten-free food — and healthy, too. That’s the best kind!

Now on to the important stuff — chocolate.

Several studies indicate pure, natural cocoa to be high in flavonoids (phytochemicals), which are powerful antioxidants that may help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. According to the food chemistry geeks at Cornell University, the antioxidant content of cocoa was almost 2 times higher than red wine, 2 to 3 times higher than green tea, and 4 to 5 times higher than black tea. Other studies show cocoa reduces blood clotting and may also stabilize arterial plaque. If you check the Dagoba Chocolate (my favorite kind) website, you’ll find a long list of health benefits.

But before you run out to the supermarket and load up on Mars Bars and Snickers, keep in mind, the research studies touting the benefits of chocolate were conducted using pure, natural cocoa (or cacao if you’re talking about the plant), so stick close to the source. Processed candy bars are not only unhealthy in general, but often contain gluten and other allergens. So skip the packaged cocoa drinks and additive-filled candy bars and buy the good stuff or make your own treats (see recipe below). My favorite source for cocoa powder for my recipes is Dagoba, but there are other good choices as well.

Chocolate as a health food? Sound too good to be true? Don’t question it, just enjoy it! But enjoy the right kind in the right amounts (that “M” word again).

Melissa’s scrumptious cocoa fondue

what you need
• 1/2 cup almond butter
• 10 mejool dates (pitted)
• 3/4 cup water
• 3/4 cups Dagoba cacao powder
• 3 tablespoons coconut milk
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

what you do
• this is another one of my “launching pad” recipes that I made up; adjust as your heart desires
• place all ingredients in a food processor
• blend until desired consistency (you may want to add more coconut milk or water)
• serve with fresh strawberries, Fuji apple slices, pears, or even jicama (be creative)

*This makes a lot; store covered in the refrigerator.

Dip and enjoy!

In good health,

10 Responses to “sweet amends & mad scientists”

  1. Lo! says:

    Oooh. This looks good. And it’s definitely healthier than some of the sugary fare that comes out of my kitchen every now and again! I love the chocolate/date combo!

  2. Lauren says:

    What a great conference! I’ll have to keep next year’s on my radar and see if I can attend. And, that fondue recipe not only sounds delicious, but also looks like it’s full of nutrients – what a win/win 🙂
    Thanks Melissa!

  3. Shirley says:

    I laughed out loud at your opening remark. If you recall, I agreed with your “tirade” against sugar. LOL My alternative doctor told me that not only does the craving of sugar sometimes indicate vitamin/nutritional deficiencies, but sometimes it just means we want something sweet in our life (can you say emotional eating?). Anyway, appreciate the post on the goodness of chocolate (not all, of course) and this recipe for fondue.

    FYI–I just wrote about your kale chips on the Gluten Free Girl’s blog. She did a post on kale and asked for input. I am making the kale chips for our support group meeting on Thursday.

    Oh, and the CSA conference sounded very informative. I’d like to do one of those Star Trek Vulcan mind melds with you so I could get info to share with my support group. LOL Seriously, after a good conference you come away with so much info you just want to get it out to folks. Lee Tobin has really done so much for “mainstream” GF eating and is a super nice guy. (I’ve met him twice now at GIG conferences.) I love that the recipes you mention are all ones that are just naturally gluten free … no gums or other oddities to be added. 🙂

    Thanks, Melissa!

  4. “Or placate feisty hormones.” I can relate to that. 😉

    Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Kay says:

    Have you found a coconut milk that is just coconut milk? The ones I’ve seen have guar gum, which I avoid.

  6. Melissa says:

    Lo! Yes, this cocoa/date combo is delightful. Especially with the almond butter mixed in.

    Lauren — these conferences are a great way to make new friends and learn about what’s going on in research and how to live a healthy gluten-free lifestyle. Good stuff for sure!

    Shirley — how did your kale chips come out? I’ve been wondering. I hope you didn’t lose half your following by serving kale chips instead of potato chips! Yes, Lee’s a great guy, a wonderful chef, and a bright light in the celiac community!

    Susan — you’ll love the recipe as it’s healthy and will placate those feisty hormones!

    Kay — hmmm? I’m not sure now that you mention it, but you’re right, I’m guessing most contain guar gum. I’ll keep that on my radar and let you know if I find a version that doesn’t.

  7. Melissa says:

    Oh, by the way, Denver area GF bloggers, Pete and Kelli, will be teaching a GF cooking class (FREE) at Whole Foods in Littleton on October 29th. You can read more about it at:

    If you live in this area, check it out.

  8. renee says:

    I’d be interested in the NM posole recipe from Lee Tobin if you would be willing to email it to me…

    I tried making a veggie version last year, for our first New Mexican holidays, but it didn’t turn out very well…maybe I will make a meat one this year, just for me (my hubby is the veggie).

  9. Melissa says:

    Hey Renee — I haven’t heard back from Lee yet, so I’ll give the Bakehouse a call today. I imagine there will be no problem posting these recipes, but I want to get permission first. There are lots of good posole recipes out there though. I make it every year for New Year’s Day, but I don’t have a “real” recipe. I’m one of those “make it up as you go” cooks. I’ve made gluten-free, veggie posole before. It can be done. Hmmm? I’ll figure it out and do a post on that one of these days.

  10. Shirley says:

    Just wanted to thank Kay for her comment! I just used coconut milk the other day for a Thai soup and did not take note that it included guar gum, but I just checked online and it did. I am not fond of the gums either, particularly guar gum. I use them as little as possible. Did a google search for coconut milk without guar gum and found the info below in a Sept. 2007 post from the blog, The Migraineur.
    “After dinner, my husband went to the nearby Whole Foods. I expected that, at least, he would find coconut milks without sodium metaprotohypocatabidichloroflurosulfate (or whatever it is), but he actually found one without guar, too. It’s called Blue Mountain Country, and it bears the legend, “For that true west indian taste.” “Interesting,” I said. “Grace, the other brand that doesn’t have guar, is from the Caribbean, too.” But it turns out that, by “west indian,” they mean “west of India,” i.e., Sri Lanka.”
    I don’t have a Whole Foods near me to check right away, but I am going out of town next week and will check at the Whole Foods there and report back.

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